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Sally Gleeson on discussing medical negligence in regional hospitals

Sally Gleeson providing Q & A on the 2GB Steve Price Afternoon Show discussing "medical negligence and regional hospitals" - 26 November 2019

Tuesday, 26 November 2019 


SP – Steve Price / Sally Gleeson –   C1,2,3, etc – Callers 


SP       We have Sally Gleeson, partner for Turner Freeman in the studio with us, she specialises of course in medical negligence. We have got a $100 Westfield voucher and a spine ease pillow for the caller who asks the best question in our legal matters segment today on 131873. So mistakes can happen when you go and see a medical expert. They are not perfect, they are not without fault. Sally you must see some dreadful examples of this. What was the story on Four Corners the other night?

SG      The four Corners story highlighted errors in the health system or deficiencies in the health system with regional hospitals and there was an investigation into several stories, the first story being of a young 18 year old man who tragically passed away, he resided in Broken Hill and he was a young man who woke up one morning with agonising pain in his left knee, due to a myriad of medical errors that were identified, he wasn’t attended to in time and ultimately what began within an infected toe nail which wasn’t picked up, was missed, wasn’t treated appropriately descended into a deadly flesh eating disease, a bacterial infection called necrotising fasciitis and unfortunately the young man tragically passed away. By the time he was attended to, by the time they realised that there was anything wrong, this was a young man who was in severe pain who was unresponsive, he was cold, he was clammy, he was sweaty, his skin was blue and mottled, he had tried very hard to receive medical treatment, his family tried to help him, he went to the hospital for an ultrasound, it wasn’t reviewed, the blood tests weren’t reviewed, his blood pressure, his temperature wasn’t attended to or taken care of, at one point he was told that there was no ambulance available, he was asked to come home, his father had to drive him to hospital and his condition over that time deteriorated rapidly and by the time he was attended to he had to be flown to a Sydney hospital but of course it was too late and he died of a cardiac arrest.

SP       What a dreadfully awful chain of events.

SG      I don’t think any person in Australia in this day and age should be dying of a treatable infection and the fact that this has happened is not only tragic but it highlights an epidemic and a problem that we have more so as this Four Corners report revealed in regional NSW in the hospitals there. The former paediatrician who worked at the Broken Hill hospital, she is one of the doctors who has recently written to the Health Minister and asking the health minister to set up an enquiry with the powers of the Royal Commission into the deficiencies in regional health care in NSW and she believes that it stems from a lack of resources, the fact that regional hospitals are isolated from capital city hospitals and the fact that managers, non-medically trained managers are not taking on the views of medical staff and not implementing changes based on these views, particularly when deficiencies are reported in the health care system and so the Four Corners report highlighted many other stories that were equally as tragic and obviously not all medical errors are negligent, I say this over and over again on the show. The legal test does not necessarily match and support the medical outcome in some instances. A clinical error is only considered negligent if the health care practitioner failed to act reasonably, or competently, that’s the legal test to law. Sometimes you can prove that someone didn’t act reasonably or competently rather but then you might not be able to prove that had reasonable care been provided, that persons outcome would have been avoided or averted so sometimes a person’s fate is sealed but as we have seen in this young man’s case it wasn’t and there were several other cases that were reported on.

SP       If you have been through this yourselves, 131873 is that number. We have Sally Gleeson from Turner Freeman in the studio with us. We have a $100 Westfield voucher for our caller who asks our best question in our legal matters segment. 131873 I’ll throw in a spine ease pillow as well.  131873 that is our number. We are taking your calls on medical matters. Wayne is on the Sunshine Coast. Hello Wayne.

C1       Hi guys how are you?

SP       Good.

C1       I’ve got a situation, a very concerning situation. A very dear friend of mine had a major operation on her back by a well-known surgeon here in QLD. Came out of the operation fine, within two or three days went into cardiac situation and ended up on life support for two and a half months. She has come out of that with as I understand it, about a 6-8% function of her kidney’s and obviously wearing a bag etc and trying to make some sort of enquiries on what avenues do they have, she is not going to get her lifestyle back, can’t travel, can’t do anything virtually and has to travel to a regional hospital to get dialysis three times a week.

SP       Sally?

SG      Hi Wayne. It’s Sally here. I mean obviously there is something that happened between the surgery and the cardiac arrest. Has any light been shed on what happened to your friend?

C1       Yes I’m sorry, bit nervous. What happened was when she came out of the surgery as I  said she was fine for a couple of days and ended up with a raging fever and before she went onto life support, investigations into the surgery and the original surgeon had perforated her bowel with between a 3 and 4 cm incision.

SP       That sounds really nasty. What do you advise Sally?

SG      That is very similar to the case that I discussed earlier Wayne although I don’t know the facts of the case, I would be very happy to talk to your friend and look into it. Seems to me that because of the perforated bowel, she suffered from some sort of peritonitis which is an infection.

SP       We will put you in contact, I think that is the best way to deal with it.  We can handle that one off air.  We have in the studio with us Sally Gleeson. We will update you on the weather as we go through the next hour and a half. Sally is with Turner Freeman, we have got Cathy in Brisbane on the line, G’day Cathy.

SP       G’day guys, hello Steve, how are you Sally?

SG      Hi Cathy.

C2       I don’t actually have a complaint or anything but my son at the age of 26 years old he is fortunate to be alive. He also had the necrotising fasciitis, the doctor thought it was just a pimple in the groin, squeezed it and transferred the strep from his nose to the wound, life support, 13-14 operations, he was lucky to survive. Just my comment there would be guys they were telling us that lucky the night he went into the Gold Coast hospital that the doctor that was on recognised the disease but there is few doctors that have seen it.

SG      Yes that’s right.

C2       No excuses, what happened to this poor man but I mean I was driving in the car listening to it and started getting upset about it. It is horrendous, it’s something you read about in the magazine that someone else gets but it is one of the most incredible damn things and it is still going to be around. Also I am not defending what happened to that young fella but till you go through it and know the ins and outs of it all, it’s like 80% mortality rate and they told us….basically the surgeon said where the disease goes I go with the knife.

SP       Ok.  That sounds like a reasonable treatment.

SG      Thanks for your comments Cathy. What you said was very true, it’s about diagnosing it early and treating it early by the time it gets to the necrotising stage it is a bit too late but thanks for your comments.

SP       Let’s talk to Jay who is also in Brisbane. G’day Jay.

C3       G’day Steve, G’day Sally.

SG      Hi how are you going?

C3       I just want to know, my wife last year presented to the hospital and they diagnosed she had clots on her lungs, they released her a week later and then she gets home and complaining of chronic neck pain so I ended up calling the ambulance, they took her back to the same hospital, they released her that day saying that she had a bulging disc so she came home still in a lot of pain. Went back to the GP, he said that doesn’t sound right so he sent her to another hospital.  We get to the other hospital and they have diagnosed her with an aneurism.

SG      My goodness.

C3       So they put her in the acute stroke ward and they are saying that had they left it another day well we would be having a different conversation now. The original hospital conveniently lost all of the records to say that they diagnosed her with just a bulging disc.

SG      How is your wife now Jay?

C3       She has come good, she has had operations, they put stents in her neck.

SP       How long ago did this happen Jay?

C3       That was last year the original one but she has only just finished having surgery like last two months she had the brain surgery to fix the aneurism.

SP       What’s your advice there Sally?

SG      It depends on the delay between when she first presented to the hospital and when she was eventually treated and properly treated. If the delay was short and even though they stuffed up initially or we think they stuffed up initially by misdiagnosing her or not diagnosing her, if the delay was short it’s hard to say that had they treated her properly her outcome would have been different. It depends on the delay, if it was a week or two it’s a tough case but if it was three or four weeks then it is something that we can look into.

C3       It wasn’t three or four weeks, like from when they misdiagnosed her because I said they brought her back home and she was screaming in pain so I took her to the GP and he has just gone, send her to this other hospital which…..

SP       Well thank god for the GP Jay.

SG      Thank god yeah. The best thing in this story about your wife was that she was properly treated eventually and she will have some quality of life and I am happy to hear that she was properly treated. If however the delay caused her additional symptoms over and above what she would have experienced, I am very happy to help you but it depends very much on the timeline of events.

SP       We will give you the contact details.  It just shows again and again and again when you and I have these conversations every few weeks, quite often you have to make sure you get a second opinion.

SG      Absolutely…

SP       Just don’t accept because you have gone to this person maybe for a long time if you are not happy or you’ve got a suspicion that your own body is telling you that something is not quite right about what they are telling you, go and get someone else to look at you.

SG      Absolutely, go with your gut feeling, normally your gut feeling is right.

SP       Rhonda is on the line in Cairns. Hi Rhonda.

C4       Hi

SG      Hi Rhonda.

C4       How are you?

SG      Good.

C4       I don’t know….I called an ambulance in March with severe stomach cramping and they took me to the hospital and sent me home with a UTI and the next day…

SP       What’s a UTI?

C4       A urinary tract infection.

SP       Ok yep sorry.

C4       And the next day I called an ambulance because it was just horrendous. The ambulance came and took me again to the hospital and because of the ramping there the paramedic gave me as much morphine as I could have, she said to me have you still got your appendix and I said yes.  Anyway they sent me home again with the same diagnosis and I was home for 18 days with a ruptured appendix.

SG      Oh my goodness.

SP       That is dreadful.

SG      That’s terrible. Were you taken back to hospital and was your appendix looked into and were you cleaned up and treated?

C4       Well I dragged myself into the car and took myself to the doctor who sent me for a blood test….

SP       Did you have your appendix taken out in the end?

C4       No, I was too septic, 18 days at home I was too septic by the time…..the doctor called an ambulance from his surgery and sent me to the hospital….

SP       That doesn’t sound like good treatment.

SG      That doesn’t sound like good treatment. The problem is you had severe stomach cramping and that could be a myriad of things. You know what I mean Rhonda, it could be so many things, it could be abdominal issues, constipation, it could be you’ve had something bad to eat but the fact that you complained of pain that was severe, you were diagnosed with a urinary tract infection which is beyond belief because you don’t get stomach cramping from that, usually you don’t get stomach cramping from that, the symptoms are quite different and your pain was horrendous and they gave you morphine and then the pain continued. You should have been taken into hospital and you should have had some testing, probably an ultrasound or a CT scan and they should have had a look and they could have diagnosed your appendicitis and you would have ultimately been treated, they would have gone inside, given you a bit of wash out with antibiotics and treated you.  Ruptured appendix can be deadly so I am glad you are here with us….

SP       What should she do?

SG      How are you now Rhonda?

C4       18 days I was home for…

SP       What we might do Rhonda is, we might get your number off air and we will put you in touch with Sally because that is a rather complicated issue as well. Always a pleasure to have you in Sally. Thank you. See you next time

SG       See you next time. Bye.