Despite advances in medicine, and both the federal and state governments spruiking improvements to the healthcare system, we continue to see preventable tragedies resulting from poor healthcare across Australia. Unfortunately, it appears to be regional and remote areas of Australia that are more commonly affected, as recently highlighted on the ABC’s Four Corners program. Such tragic and preventable outcomes appear to be increasing, and it's not down to one single failing, but a myriad of problems with resourcing at its core.
We have seen many instances of overworked and under-resourced staff and specialists, leading to a compromise in treatment and care, putting those who need it most at risk.
Simple errors are being made as policies and procedures are not being followed, simple observations are being missed and important results overlooked. Junior staff aren’t getting the training and supervision that they need, placing them and their patients in a compromising position.
This culminates in poor care, often causing catastrophic and life-threatening results for patients.
When Nicholas Wells was injured in a car accident in 2016, he was taken to a regional hospital in NSW with serious, yet treatable, injuries. The young father had suffered a neck fracture along with a perforated bowel, which went undiagnosed, untreated and ultimately killed him. Mr Wells worsening condition due to peritonitis and sepsis that developed from the perforated bowel was interpreted by staff as drug withdrawals.
A coronial enquiry found that Mr Wells was being treated by staff who were not properly qualified and should have been supervised and this, in turn, led to his death. Simple errors and presumptions led to a father being prematurely taken away from his family.
How has it been allowed to get this bad?
We have seen many state-based reports, inquests and reports from government and independent sector reports, turning the spotlight on deficiencies in healthcare and the disparity in care, particularly in rural and regional locations.
Despite this there has been no call for change and little accountability attached to the government. We need to see this become a priority and greater resources poured to wages, training and supervision. If action is not taken more lives will be affected.
We will soon see demands for an enquiry into the Australian Healthcare System and Patient Safety by Australians, along with medical staff who are being placed in compromising positions.
Where is it headed if we continue to do nothing and doctors like the one mentioned in Nicholas Wells’ case are not deregistered? How can they be allowed to keep on working?
A tough approach needs to be taken and medical staff who have compromised a patient’s care resulting in death or injury need to be held accountable and the risk they pose to patient safety removed.
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Written by Clare Eves. Last modified: October 16, 2019.