Double health whammy

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Is this the way we should be treating the most vulnerable people in our community?

The Weekender can today reveal two stories that raise significant concerns about the faith locals have in the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District (NBMLHD).

When Stephanie Scott’s 75-year-old grandmother, Jenny Mortimer, fell ill on Tuesday morning, the family took her to the emergency ward of Nepean Hospital at 10am only to be told there were no beds.

“Nan suffers from fluid on the lungs so when she fell ill we took her straight to the hospital because we know it’s a symptom of her bad heart,” Ms Scott told the Weekender.

But after waiting all day in emergency, by 11pm that evening there were still no beds available.

“There were six people in the waiting room, my Nan being the youngest, and they were all told that there were no beds. The nurses were very nice but said that the best they could offer was for her to sleep on the chair, but couldn’t even find her a pillow – she was lucky to get a blanket.

“We had said that we could take her home so she could get a good night’s sleep and bring her back as soon as a bed became available, but we were told that if she left we would have to sign a document saying it was against the medical advice given, and when she returned in the morning she would be back at the bottom of the waiting list.”

Fortunately Ms Mortimer was found a bed in the early hours of Wednesday and is now being treated. Down the road at the Penrith Community Dialysis Centre, local resident, Melody Sherriff, believes there is a staffing crisis that is risking the safety of patients.

That’s denied by NBMLHD, which says staff numbers are “consistent with national patient to staff ratio benchmarks”.

“We all go there three times a week and each dialysis treatment lasts for 4.5 hours to 5.5 hours,” Ms Sherriff said.

“There used to be six nurses supervising 15 patients but now there are only four nurses. We all have to be monitored very closely because there can be a lot of complications but how can that happen when there is one nurse responsible for five people?”

But Chris Gibb, Nurse Manager Western Renal Service, said the average staff to patient ratio for a satellite dialysis service such as the dialysis centre was 5-6 patients per staff member.

Ms Sherriff said that there are regularly major complications for patients on dialysis machines.

“One man’s injection in his vein came out and the nurse supervising him yelled out ‘help’ and all the nurses had to drop what they were doing. He lost a litre of blood onto the floor,” she said.

Ms Sherriff claims that one lady suffered a heart attack whilst connected to the dialysis machine and the ambulance took 20 minutes to arrive, with other patients left unsupervised.

As for Ms Mortimer, Nepean Hospital General Manager, Kevin Hedge, said there was a “high level of demand” on Tuesday, which meant not all patients could be provided a bed immediately.


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