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Sally Gleeson on 2GB – medical negligence claims

Sally Gleeson providing Q & A on the 2GB Chris Smith Afternoon Show discussing medical issues – 23 October 2018

Tuesday, 23 October 2018


CS – Chris Smith /SG – Sally Gleeson /C1,2,3, etc – Callers



CS         Better late than never.  I thought it was important to get you that news because you’ve probably been following it through the morning – Chris Riley’s appeal for the existing funding to be maintained – that will be the case now for a little under 18 months – so he would be happy and no doubt they will get together at another period – maybe when Dan Tehan does come to Sydney to see his work and they can discuss funding further on.  I’m not sure whether you remember this story, but a couple of weeks ago a young Melbourne woman tragically died in a fiery car crash – now police said she was driving her car at high speed, but when 25 year old Paige Dent’s parents were informed of the incident, it came as a huge shock to them because as far as they knew – Paige was safe in a Psychiatric Ward of Dandenong Hospital.  They hadn’t been informed that she had run away from the facility again.  Her parents are questioning the level of care that was provided to their daughter and other mental health patients.  Paige’s case raised questions about what role mental health facilities play?  Just how much responsibility do they have over the safety and well being of their patients?  And that’s what we will be discussing in today’s Legal Matters – we are basing it on medical negligence today – that’s the subject and if you’ve got a related question – it doesn’t necessarily have to be related to mental health facilities- give us a call on 131 873 – 131 873.  I’ve got a $100 Westfield voucher to give away as well to one of our callers – Turner Freeman Lawyers provide a range of specialised legal services including compensation and negligence law, asbestos litigation, superannuation and disability claims, family and employment law, Wills and Estate and also property law.  Sally Gleeson – a partner at Turner Freeman from the Sydney office who specialises in medical negligence litigation is here to take your calls and she is in the studio with me right now.  Sally.  Thank you very much for coming in once again.

SG       Thanks Chris.

CS         Paige Dent – I’ve just raised her case then – she had run away from psychiatric facilities multiple times – shouldn’t that have put the hospital on high alert and maybe there should have been extra security or maybe her parents should have been told when she did get out of the facility – there are some really big questions to be asked on this one.

SG         Absolutely.  I mean, there is no doubt that the mental health system that we have in Australia now is in some type of crisis and more and more it’s becoming clear that psychiatric facilities are unable to properly provide and care for their patients.  There is absolutely no excuse for not providing proper and appropriate care and treatment to those who are psychiatrically damaged, vulnerable and fragile.  When someone resorts to attending a psychiatric facility or is admitted or as a last chance option goes there – attends there – they are obviously seeking help – desperate help and assistance.  And the job of a psychiatric facility is not to assess that patient in the current mode just then – the job of a psychiatric facility is to look at the person holistically, assess them, triage them, understand their problems, communicate with their existing and past health care providers to understand the problem that they are suffering from and to provide a modality of treatment that treats the problem in all respects.  And so at the moment what we are seeing in health and mental health facilities in Australia, is a disparity in the modes of treatment and a lack of proper attention to an individual patient’s needs.  The common stories are those involving young adults who attend a mental health facility, they are placed on a waiting list; they are made to wait for hours on end; there’s a lack of knowledge or understanding of their problems and there’s a failure to recognise how that problem needs to be treated.  So we have young adults who are being moved from psychologists to psychiatrists back to counsellor – back to GP and they fall through the cracks of the system that is – to be blunt – dysfunctional.

CS         Well, clearly Paige Dent fell through the cracks and is simply not good enough. 131 873 is the telephone number.  Chris in Gladesville – go right ahead.

Caller 1 –  Chris

Chris     Oh. G’day Chris – G’day Sally.

SG         Hi

Chris     Sorry, a bit nervous – first time caller.

CS         It’s okay.

Chris     Ah, I just had a question about Community Treatment Orders.  Ah – just my partner had recently found out that she has been on one for 3 years and she was looking to come off it and has been refused every time.  There was an incident relating to a fight with a roommate she had and called the police and said she was threatening suicide.  So they’ve actually put her in a hospital for 2 weeks and said she has delusions of her career – she has a Masters Degree in Accounting and Logistics – so she has no delusions about how far she can go in a career and she had delusions that she was in love with this guy – which she says is false.  So she is wondering – now they’ve found out that she has a boyfriend, which is me – they’re actually wanting to bring me in and have a talk to me to see what they can do to get her off it.  But she has been refused so many times, she’s just worried it is going to happen again.

SG         Sure.  Has your partner been through the Mental Health Review Tribunal?  Has a proper process been followed and have they reviewed her situation of late?

Chris  After the first year, they actually had a telephone conference with her and they rejected her.  She only sees a case worker every few months and they just ask how she is going and where she is living; and then she sees a psychologist or the doctor every three months and they actually just say – look, you still need it.  She’s getting the low dose for bipolar disorder.   So they’ve just diagnosed her with the bipolar which I honestly don’t think is true but …….

SG      The thing about it Chris, is that if there has been a material change in your partner’s circumstances and upon the recommendation of her treating practitioner, she has improved or she’s reached a stage where her situation needs to be reviewed, a further application can be made to the Mental Health Review Tribunal.  Submissions put to them so that her case can be heard.  So there is a process that needs to be followed – it depends very much on her situation as it has changed over the years since the last Community Treatment Order was put into place and this is an assessment on a case by case basis and they really need to review the situation by the sounds of it.

Chris  Do I – should I have a lawyer sort of to advise me going into this?

SG      You don’t necessarily require a lawyer, but you can seek the assistance of for example someone like me; and I wouldn’t be acting as your lawyer but I’d be acting as your advisor and I’m very happy to give you some advice about the situation.

CS       Chris.  Would you like to speak with Sally off air?

Chris  Ah, yeah that would be great thanks.

CS       Okay – all right – stay there mate – we’ll put you through – back through to Hansel and we’ll get your number and we’ll get Sally to be in contact with you.  Just in terms of Community Treatment Orders – what do they mean for those that don’t know?

SG      Community Treatment Orders are Orders that are imposed on certain individuals by the Mental Health Tribunal.  So that those individuals have to undergo regime of treatment and care…..

CS       Must?

SG      Must…. yes.  And there are certain conditions put on them and it varies for every individual in relation to seeing a psychiatrist, attending upon a psychiatrist – it’s a bit like parole.  So they have to adhere to the conditions of the Community Treatment Order so that the theory is that their mental wellbeing and health is maintained.

CS       Unless they can prove that circumstances have changed.

SG      And it changes and it has to change – and they are normally imposed for periods of time.  They are not indefinite.

CS       Okay.  If you’ve had experience in that area, shed some light on it for us and some of your experiences may be at the Tribunal level.  131 873.  Anne- – go right ahead.

Caller 2 – Anne

Anne   Oh hi – Thanks Chris and Sally.

SG      Hi Anne.  Sally – look, some time ago I had an ongoing problem with the urinary tract and to prevent infection they put me on this medication – the specialist – anyway, it was only – I don’t know a few months – I can’t remember exactly.  I started to having chest problems and you know – really quite sick and getting the flu, I couldn’t get over – anyway, I went to see – ………………. to see a lung specialist and he really went off the air and he said that I should never have been put on it – it should never be used.  And the fact is that, the specialist – I liked her – but the GP didn’t seem to pick it up when I said I had these problems.

SG         Yes.

Anne     Now, I’m less now with slight emphysema – because – I’ve never smoked – you know – I’ve never done any of these things and I’m so angry and yet you know – I don’t really want to – probably – I don’t know – you know – if there is anything I could do – but……

SG         Sure.  Have you approached your GP and spoken to the GP about the medication and whether the medication did have known side effects.  It could have caused your condition and whether……………………….

Anne     Oh well its no – the specialist – he wrote to both of them.

SG         Sure.

Anne     Because in fact, I don’t know why it is on the market quite frankly.  It doesn’t happen very often to people, but unfortunately it happened to me.

SG         Sure.  And you were never warned about it Anne?

Anne     No.

SG         Okay.  So…..

Anne     I thought this was a like – seemed to –you know a great medication……

CS         Obviously Anne would require some kind of independent assessment right?

SG         Absolutely.  Anne – I mean obviously you have a permanent problem – you’ve got slight emphysema and so I don’t doubt that there is any connection between the medication and what it has caused you however, we’ve got to prove that there was a failure to act when you first complained about the problem and what was reasonable and unreasonable to do.  So I am very happy to speak to you about it.

Anne     Yes.  All right.

CS         Anne. I’ve got a $100 voucher for you too from Westfields and Turner Freeman.

Anne     Oh.  Thank you very much.

CS         There you go.

Anne     That’s lovely.  Thank you.

CS         There’s a shopping trip in that I guess.

Anne     I’d say so.  Well thank you.  Will I ring you at some later stage?

SG         I will……

CS         Anne.  Stay there and we’ll take your numbers and if it is okay Sally will give you a call directly and we’ll try and work out what to do.  Anne….. Let’s put Anne through to Hansel.  Just quickly on Anne’s case, it wouldn’t take too much to have a series of independent assessment. Would you get more than 1?  Would you require more than one?

SG         Absolutely.  The first thing is that we look at the records of the GP;  we look at the complaints by Anne  and we look at the chronology of events and if Anne was complaining about something earlier on and there was a failure to act, failure to refer, failure to connect the possible medication issue with her problems, then that delay – so as long as it has caused the problem that Anne is suffering from ………

CS       And not a smoker and never any lung problems before that?

SG      Sure.  So we’d have to look at it – dissect the issues and analyse it closely.

CS       All right – appreciate that.  I’ve run out of time, but thank you very much for yours.  Sally Gleeson and we’ll see you again when we next talk about medical negligence.

SG       Thanks Chris.

CS       Sally Gleeson – partner in Turner Freeman – based in the Sydney office – you can go to their website –  I’ve got a couple of numbers – in NSW you can call 1300 237 112 – 1400 237 112 and in QLD 13 43 63 – 13 43 63.   We’ll have another Turner Freeman Legal Matters segment next Tuesday at the same time.


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