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Sally Gleeson providing Q & A on medical negligence – 4 February 2020

Sally Gleeson providing Q & A on the 2GB Steve Price Afternoon Show discussing medical negligence 4 February 2020

Tuesday, 4 February 2020 


DK – Deborah Knight / Sally Gleeson –   C1,2,3, etc – Callers 


DK      So glad this segment is back, it is a popular one. Have you had a dodgy operation over summer, did something go wrong while you were in hospital? It was only on Friday in fact that the Royal Adelaide hospital lost power for 15 minutes while patients were being operated on. Maybe something similar has happened to you and you are unsure, you want some answers, well you are in the right place. We are talking legal matters in our segment today, it is a popular one and our legal matters segment will be this time every Tuesday, so if you have a legal question, now is the time to give us a call. 131873 is my number. And as always we have a $100 Westfield voucher to give away to the caller who asks the best question in our legal matters segment at Turner Freeman lawyers, they do provide a range of specialised legal services including compensation and negligence law, asbestos litigation, superannuation and disability claims, employment law, wills and estates, property law, they are all over legal matters be it large and small. Sally Gleeson is a partner in the Turner Freeman Sydney office. She specialises in medical negligence litigation and she is here with us in the studio. Sally hello.

SG      Hi, good afternoon.

DK      Thank you so much for joining us, we know that there is a big response to this segment so I’m really pleased that we can continue it into 2020 with a new look show and it is really good that we can discuss medical negligence because it is one of those fields that people have got lots of questions and it seems to be much more common than you think.

SG      Much more common and very complex and misunderstood often. Medical negligence is thought to be one thing when in fact it is a combination of things, it is a multi-tiered area of law, it’s not enough that someone makes a mistake or a medical professional or a doctor makes a mistake, it’s much more involved than that, so my job as a lawyer is to look at the case, investigate the case and ascertain whether there is anything I can do for the family.

DK      So the instance that I mentioned in the intro about the Adelaide hospital where the power went out for 15 minutes, if something went wrong could that then be the basis of a case to be brought forward?

SG      If something went wrong and what wrong had an impact on someone on a permanent basis, it is not enough that something went wrong, assuming that the hospital was at fault, you have to look deeper, dig deeper and you have to see what impact that has on people and potentially on the patients who were at the hospital and if it caused someone something that otherwise would have been avoidable, that leaves that person with a permanent disfigurement, scar or injury, then that can be explored but the mere fact that something went wrong is not in itself sufficient, there’s got to be more than that. So as a lawyer I know it’s hard for people who come to me to understand that because it seems obvious something went wrong and therefore why am I not entitled to compensation, why are they not liable so as I said, the job of a lawyer, the job of an efficient lawyer is to dig deeper and do the right thing by the family so as not to lead them up the garden path, so as to explain the law, communicate the law to them and explain to them precisely what their rights and entitlements are.

DK      So good that you are here today to answer some of our calls. John is with us first up on the Central Coast with a good question, John what do you want to ask Sally?

C1       How are you going?

DK      Hi John.

C1       I’ve just got a question about seeing a doctor and basically getting given the wrong diagnosis say about 10 weeks earlier and then finding out you’ve got myeloma because basically my boss, that’s what happened to him, and he went in there, here is a referral for a chiropractor and then 10 weeks later went to another doctor and he said I can’t keep doing this and yeah found myeloma and he was admitted to hospital straight away.

DK      That is a very starkly different diagnosis isn’t it, go to a chiropractor versus you’ve got cancer.

SG      Thanks John for asking the question. The essence of what I was saying before is really key to that. 10 weeks delay in a diagnosis that otherwise should have been made that much earlier, we need to show that had the diagnosis been made earlier your boss’ outcome would have been significantly different. So it really is very much dependent on whether he has now received the right treatment and he is on the road to recovery and really there hasn’t been any significant impact on him, then there probably isn’t a case but if we investigate and if we through our investigations ascertained that through earlier intervention, he would have been much less worse off than he is now, than there is definitely something there so it’s really something that I would need to talk to him about and investigate.

C1       For sure. Because he ended up breaking bones while he was in hospital as well because of it.

SG      And of course the key Deborah was saying is early diagnosis with cancer, it’s all about early diagnosis because the treatment is very different, the later you leave it, so it is something that I am definitely happy to look into.

DK      Alright good on you John. We will get the details and we might be able to help you out. 131873 if you have a question for Sally. Free legal advice for you here with $100 gift voucher up for grabs with the best caller as well. Rachel, what is your question for Sally? Hello Rachel are you there? Rochelle are you there? Am I saying that correctly?

C2       Hello how are you going?

DK      Sorry I got your name wrong there.

C2       That’s alright, how are you?

DK      Good.

C2       I got diagnosed with cancer, rectal cancer, and I had my operation and they put a stoma bag on me. She admitted once the surgery was done that the stoma wasn’t a very good hole to put the bag on and there was a lot of trouble with the bag and anyway they sent me home after it was all complete and taught me the stoma bag and all that and then I was in a lot of pain so I admitted myself into hospital, cause it was all down my back and my stomach and it was all red, and I actually had community nurses come out later and they said to me you need to go by ambulance to the hospital. And I go what’s wrong and anyway she put it up on her account and so after then I admitted myself and they didn’t really do anything for that week.

DK      And what was the upshot Rochelle, what actually happened? We have got a number of calls who want to ask questions too but sorry to rush you but what was the upshot?

C2       The upshot was that they released me without doing much and I ended up with a 26cm cut by a 9cm deep cut, the port hole had busted and all the faeces ran into my stomach and killed all my skin.

DK      Oh my goodness, would Rochelle have a case to answer here Sally?

SG      Rochelle have they since fixed that and rectified it and done the right thing by you?

C2       Um the cut is still very very painful, she told me to go on I’ll be fine. I wear a nappy every day of my life….

DK      So apparently it does have an ongoing impact….

C2       I’ve moved onto a different surgeon and he told me that one of my colons is gone and I didn’t even get told that.

SG      Ok Rochelle, so I am very sorry to hear what has happened to you, we have to isolate what the cancer would have done anyway, the fact that you would have probably needed the stoma, from the stoma not being done properly and the technique of the stoma being put in, not being adequate so I’m happy to explore that with you further but we have to isolate what they did wrong to what you would have had to have anyway so it’s something that I am happy to discuss with you further.

DK      Alright Rochelle, thank you for the call. This a good question we have from Joe as well, in Cabramatta today. Hi Joe.

C3       Hi darling how are you?

DK      Good.

C3       I got out of an ambulance chair, you know those NSW Ambulance, I dropped out of their little chair and my back has been sore ever since.  Just want to know what I’ve got to do about it.

SG      When did this happen Joe, this is Sally here? When did this happen?

C3       About 20th darling of last month.

SG      So they came to your home? Is that what happened?

C3       Yeah the ambulance came to my house.

SG      Ok because you called the ambulance or someone called the ambulance?

C3       No I called the ambulance because I couldn’t breathe.

SG      And how did they drop you out of the chair?

C3       Well they pushed me from my house to the ambulance for the machine, to have the ventilator and the young guy wouldn’t bring it up to the house, so he took me down to the chair and pushed it on the grass and hit me right back on the heel.

SG      Ok.

C3       Dropped me right out of the chair.

SG      And have you seen your GP about it, have you had some tests done on your back?

C3       I have seen my GP, I have had x-rays done on my back, there is mild protrusion now on the disc and I just don’t know what to do darling.

SG      Ok so this is something that we can explore, I mean dropping you out of the chair when an ambulance is escorting you to the ambulance is something that you know shouldn’t really happen, it’s preventable, it’s avoidable, through the exercising of…..

C3       Well that many times they used to bring the oxygen inside the house but this time this guy wanted me to go to the ambulance.

SG      I understand. So you’ve got a protrusion on your disc, we need to get some reports and we need to have a look and see what can be done about it.

DK      Alright well we will get some..,..

C3       You have my phone number yeah?

DK      We will get it off line Joe and we will put you on hold and we will get your details to Sally and she can look into that a bit further for you. It is a good question though Sally, because it’s one of those things obviously you are seeking medical urgent help and where does the responsibility lie for those people in the initial stage before you even get to the hospital?

SG      That’s right, it’s a balancing act. I get a lot of enquiries about this particular thing, and people falling out of chairs in hospitals, wheelchairs, people being wheeled to the bathroom in hospital and people being told you shouldn’t really walk but asking those people to walk for example to the bathroom.

DK      So would the hospitals have built in into their liability laws coverage of that and ambulances too?

SG      Absolutely. The moment you are under the care of a medical professional whether that be a public hospital, private, a private doctor then they have a duty and obligation to take care of you and they have to uphold a certain standard of care and if they hurt you in circumstances where they should have done more than that’s obviously covered by their insurance.

DK      Ok you might have a question for Sally, give us a call now 131873 this is a popular segment, it always runs out of time. It is great to have legal matters back for 2020 and we will take more of your calls right after this.

DK      Gary is on the line in Little Bay with an interesting question for you. Hi Gary.

C4       Hi Deb how are you going?

DK      I’m well thanks.

C4       Yeah Sally I had a workers comp issue back in 2000, I sort of balked at the idea of having surgery so 2005 I was told I must have surgery, I had the surgery, a month later the surgeon got busted for cocaine use, he is still working actually after, I won’t say the hospital.

SG      Yeah sure

C4       So as a result of that he cut through the arachnoid of my spinal cord.

SG      My goodness, I’m so sorry to hear that.

DK      He was deregistered?

C4       No he was suspended and then he was subjected to urine sampling and drug testing for a number of years and now I believe he is supposed to be clean at the moment but heaven knows but um…

DK      It’s an interesting one, what happened as a result Gary?

C4       As a result of the arachnoid being cut, I have diabetes, bad arthritis, I have immunoglobin infusions every month, I have….

DK      So ongoing health issues, I think that sounds like an interesting case Sally. He would have to have something to go to court with wouldn’t he?

SG      Gary is the workers comp insurer taking care of you, are they paying for your treatment?

C4       Yes.

SG      Ok excellent.

C4       Yes they have been wonderful.

SG      Ok so if there is a medical negligence case your workers compensation rights remain ongoing, it doesn’t in any way cut you off or extinguish your benefits. The beauty about exploring a medical negligence case is that it can be explored and if nothing comes of it then your workers compensation rights continue. It’s an interesting one, I need to look at the operation records and find out exactly what happened during the surgery, whether he was under the influence at the time or whether….

C4       Well that’s the million dollar question, nobody knows but a month later he got done for it but I was his first patient on a Monday morning at 6am.

SG      It matters little whether he was or wasn’t because if he was negligent then that was the case. Negligence in itself is doing the operation incorrectly, applying the wrong surgical technique and not applying the correct standards of care so I need to have a look at the operation records and I need to speak to an orthopaedic expert and we can figure out whether there is a case I can help you with but in the meantime luckily the workers compensation insurer is taking care of you.

DK      Alright well we will try and get your details Gary, you might have something to follow up there with Sally. Thank you for that. An interesting one too which I would be interested to find out the answer from, Cynthia who is in Sydney, hi Cynthia, what’s your question?

C5       My question is, a dentist didn’t tell me that metal or find it out allegedly a dental drill piece went into my right lung but it can’t, it is very invasive to be have an operation. My question is, how long say, it was done in 2017 but actually it happened in 2016 because every year I had MRI and it’s only in 2017 it was found out so anyway, so my question is, how long can I put in a complaint about the medical negligence.

SG      So you’ve got, it’s not a limitation date as it used to be, the law became more relaxed in December 2002 so in the past it was 3 years from the date of your injury and now it’s changed. It’s 3 years from when you discovered you may have a case so in your case it’s not when you found out, it’s a few factors, it’s when you discovered you may have a case and then we look at what action you took, when you discovered that you had a case so you still might be within time. Not all hope is gone, you still might be within time.

DK      Another time related question from Val in Narellan too. Hi Val.

C6       Hi there, how are you?

SG      Hi Val.

C6       I had an accident, I fell down one stair in my home in December 2007 and got the ambulance and went to hospital, they x-rayed it, they told me I had a bad sprain and sent me home with tablets, wrapped it up, sent me home with tablets and I was in so much pain. We went back again, that was on the Saturday, went back again on the Sunday and in another ambulance, they x-rayed it again, told me again it was a bad sprain, the doctor looked at it, told me to just go to your local GP on the Monday. Well on the Monday I was in excruciating pain, so I worked for a doctor, a specialist, so I went to another specialist that I knew in the same hospital who was an orthopaedic chap and he did an MRI on it and I had smashed my heel bone and put the leg bone through it and he was astounded.

SG      A prime example of missing a diagnosis so…

DK      So if that happened back in 2007 does she still have a time frame to be able to make a case.

SG      When did you find out Val that someone might have made a mistake? Did you know immediately back in 2007 that they missed it and did it occur to you that they missed it?

C6       Yeah I was just on painkillers and that much pain for 6 months.

DK      So she did know.

SG      So that’s a prime example of why even if you are not sure you should speak to a lawyer, it’s really really important. It happened almost 13 years ago, 12 years ago and unfortunately the law is not on your side. You might be out of time, but that is a prime example where even if you are not sure, even if you have no idea, just ring someone and have a chat.

DK      Alright, have you got a winner that you could pick from our calls today. What do you think? We’ve got out $100 Westfield voucher to give away to the caller.

SG      Well I think John. That’s who I would prefer.

DK      We will give that to John, we will get John’s details and that was the question about the cancer. His boss had been told he had cancer, sent to a chiropractor initially and then found out that the diagnosis was much worse. Thank you for coming in Sally and again we did run out of time, I predicted we would but if you do want to re-address this, we will be doing it every Tuesday with Turner Freeman Lawyers. Free legal advice and we will talk with Sally again soon with regards to medical negligence specifically.

SG      Thank you.

DK      Thank you so much. Sally Gleeson there from Turner Freeman Lawyers and they do really take up your cases for you, if you want to get in touch with Sally or any of the other lawyers, Turner Freeman 134363 and you can visit Turner for all of your legal advice.