Hospital Nightmare Continues on the Northern Beaches
Many parents have at some stage put their kids to bed at night thinking one of them seems a bit hot. However, they hope that whatever’s causing it will have cleared up in the morning so that they can head off to work after taking the kids to daycare.
For one Avalon family, that high temperature and a bad tummy ache turned into a full-blown medical emergency recently, after their two-year-old daughter was sent home from Northern Beaches Hospital without a diagnosis.
Avalon actor Chris Sadrinna, a former Blue Heelers and Home and Away star, and his partner, Mahalia Rimmer, a screen writer, saw the problems at the new hospital first hand when their daughter, Mila, fell ill two weekends ago.
The parents took her to Northern Beaches Hospital on the Monday where the doctor who saw her said it might be viral gastroenteritis and decided, despite the parents’ requests, not to do any blood tests because it might be too distressing for the toddler. Mila was sent home with her parents on double doses of Panadol and Nurofen to keep her temperature down.
Two mornings later Mr Sadrinna knew something was seriously wrong when he noticed Mila’s lips were turning black and her body blue as he changed her nappy – before dropping five-year-old son Asher off at daycare.
“So I just jumped in the car (with the children) and didn’t even take a nappy bag for her,” Mr Sadrinna said in an interview on Wednesday.
“The plan was to go to the Frenchs Forest hospital but as I was driving through Mona Vale she started to pass out in the back seat.
“I knew there was urgent care at Mona Vale and ambulances so I pulled in there and parked the car in the emergency bay.
“I ran into Urgent Care but they turned me away.”
To Mr Sadrinna’s horror, the staff on duty at the Urgent Care Centre told him they could not help Mila. However, they eventually called an ambulance, which had to travel all the way from St Ives.
When he refused to allow his daughter to return to NBH, paramedics eventually agreed to transport them to Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick.
There they spent most of the day in a crowed emergency waiting room, while blood and other tests were carried out. However, when by 8pm a bed was still not available for Mila, the family was told to take her to Royal North Shore Hospital.
What followed was a diagnosis of a urinary tract infection that had spread to Mila’s kidneys and septicaemia – so that finally, on the Thursday, four days after her original visit to NBH, she was admitted to RNS and spent three days on intravenous antibiotics.
Mila has since recovered and scans of her kidneys show that they are undamaged, however, her parents believe they should have been able to receive timely treatment for the potentially fatal condition at Mona Vale Hospital and are calling for an official inquiry into the situation.
“There’s a crisis in the Sydney Hospital system,” Mr Sadrinna said.
“We have lost Mona Vale, we have lost Manly … and the pressure’s being put on those other hospitals.”
Mr Sadrinna related his story shortly before a Save Mona Vale Hospital rally outside NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard’s Dee Why office on Wednesday morning.
Hospital campaigners appeared to have ended the year with a small victory, when Mr Hazzard announced at the rally that the government will restore imaging and snake bite treatment to the facility.
The announcement tops off six months of protests and lobbying, after health officials revealed in May the extent of cuts to acute services at the local hospital.
Mr Hazzard appeared unexpectedly at the noisy demonstration, where about 50 protesters chanted and many passing cars and trucks honked their horns in support.
“We now do have … an Urgent Care Centre that has got what you have been arguing for, which is back with the ultrasound, back with the CAT scan, back with the anti-venom,” Mr Hazzard told the protesters.
“And if there turns out to be more things that are needed in that Urgent Care Centre, of course we will look at that and try to get that delivered as well.”
Save Mona Vale Hospital chairman Parry Thomas welcomed the changes, which he said mean more diagnoses can be made at the UCC.
However, as Mr Sadrinna and Ms Rimmer’s experience shows, Mona Vale Hospital can no longer deal with common medical problems. Despite the protests of local residents, the hospital has lost its advanced resuscitation facilities, operating theatres and maternity unit.
“We’ve now got a medical centre with a radiologist in house,” Mr Thomas said.
“That’s great, it helps, but it’s not the solution.”
Mr Hazzard also appeared to flag that the main hospital building at Mona Vale will not be pulled down as many residents have feared. Asked if the state government still intends to carry out the demolition, Mr Hazzard said: “Absolutely not”.
However, he qualified this, saying: “There are parts of it with asbestos.
“I haven’t seen anything on that … but if there’s asbestos, there might have to be reparations”.
The Save Mona Vale Hospital Committee was set up in 2000 to prevent the facility’s closure, after the NSW government announced plans to replace it and Manly Hospital with a new hospital at Frenchs Forest. The campaign continued until 2007, when Pittwater state MP Rob Stokes won his seat after promising to retain Mona Vale Hospital.
Earlier this year, health officials and a representative of Healthscope - the company that now operates the new private/public Northern Beaches Hospital - visited community groups around Pittwater, outlining services that would be offered at Mona Vale as well as the new hospital.
Many residents were appalled to learn that the heart of Mona Vale Hospital – its acute services such as emergency and maternity – would no longer be offered at the hospital.
Officials also said that the Urgent Care Centre would treat only minor illnesses and injuries, and its staff comprised of two doctors and two nurses on any one shift and that doctors would not be required to have accreditation as members of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine.
The campaign kicked off again in July with a public forum organised by the Protect Pittwater Association and, since then, the Save Mona Vale Hospital Committee has organised protests attracting thousands of demonstrators locally and outside NSW Parliament House, as well as collected signatures for a petition for acute services at Mona Vale.
Those services closed at the end of October when Manly Hospital also shut its doors, and the Northern Beaches Hospital opened. Since then, the new hospital has been beset by problems including: patients experiencing long waits; shortages of supplies and equipment; and inadequate training and procedures leading to life threatening emergencies.
The depth of the problems were revealed when the new hospital’s chief executive, Deborah Latta, resigned within two days of its official opening and medical director Louise Messara two weeks later. In early December, a number of anaesthetists, including the departmental head, Alistair Boyce, also left.
Despite this turmoil, Mr Hazzard continued to maintain at Wednesday’s protest that the NBH is simply experiencing “teething problems” – in line with Premier Gladys Berejikilian’s belief expressed at its opening that the place is “world class”.
Families continue to report distressing and dangerous experiences at NBH, indicating serious systemic problems within the health system as well as the problems caused by the absence of an acute services hospital on the coastal strip.
Campaigner Mr Thomas has often pointed out that Northern Beaches Hospital is closer to Bondi than Palm Beach, and those eastern suburbs residents have at least four Level 6 hospitals closer to them than the Level 5, Frenchs Forest.
However, with public and many doctors’ confidence undermined by the fiasco at NBH, the closest fully-functioning public hospital to Palm Beach residents is now Royal North Shore at St Leonards, nearly 40km away.
For residents and visitors the absence of a reliable hospital close at hand during the busy Christmas period is a serious issue.
“We’re about to start the summer holidays with schools breaking up and thousands of visitors – and we are likely to see a significant increase in kids’ accidents on bikes and skateboards, road crashes and drownings,” Mr Thomas said this week.
“The Minister must take seriously his responsibility to end the hospital crisis and provide safe and high-quality health care for the Northern Beaches.”
Mr Hazzard, at this point however, is not convinced of the need to fully reopen Mona Vale Hospital’s emergency department, operating theatres, intensive care unit, maternity and other acute services.
The departure of two or three doctors from a staff of 1,300 is “not indicative of any major problems at the hospital”. “In fact it’s quite the opposite,” he said.
Needless to say, the campaign will continue in 2019. We can only hope that over the summer more families do not have to endure distress like Mila’s.
The Save Mona Vale Hospital Committee has members and supporters from across the political spectrum, united in its goal to recover acute services at Mona Vale Hospital.
We will start next year's campaign with a public forum in early February. Details available in the New Year.
If you would like to collect signatures for the hospital petition please print out the following pdf and return completed sheets to the Save Mona Vale Hospital Committee.
To contact the Save Mona Vale Hospital Committee, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
or see its facebook page at: www.facebook.com/SaveMonaValeHospital
By Miranda Korzy, SMVHC Media Officer
MVH Hospital Petition Dec. 2018.pdf
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