‘The tip of the iceberg’: Glimpses of a fractured health system
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If you were rushed to hospital via ambulance you wouldn’t expect to spend hours waiting around for care. But that is exactly what paramedics and health insiders are saying is happening in Victoria, even before the expected worst of the new wave of coronavirus cases have hit.
In a weekend investigative piece by The Age’s health reporting team, doctors, nurses and health staff warned that every aspect of the health system is stretched, and it is already affecting patient care, in some cases with tragic results.
We asked our readers to share their experiences. Here are some of them.
‘I was rushed to hospital in an ambulance the next morning’
I went to the ER three weeks ago. There was a nine-hour wait … and [they] basically said: “Go home, come back if you really need to.” Needless to say, I was rushed to hospital in an ambulance the next morning. Took nearly 30 minutes for the ambulance to get to me. The ED was half empty but “full” because of COVID-19 capacity limits.
‘We have now been instructed to only see urgent patients’
What you’ve reported is just the tip of the iceberg. Even before the upcoming surge, our specialist clinics are overrun. I am currently seeing patients who have waited three years from the time of referral from their GP for their first appointment. We have now been instructed to only see urgent patients. From an elective-surgery point of view, although officially we can do all categories of elective surgery, our capacity at my major city hospital has been cut to almost one third of what we would normally do. This will increase the backlog and cause delayed treatment of common conditions for many years to come.
‘If only people can see what’s happening in our hospitals’
There’s already a lack of doctors and nurses on the frontline, with nurses asked to do double shifts and constant texts sent out asking anyone available to fill shifts. Elective surgeries are already being postponed and [the] intensive care unit starting to clot up. And the worst is yet to come. As hard [as] lockdown is and as much as I hate it, this is still the right choice if only people can see what’s happening in our hospitals.
‘Adverse events are often not recorded’
Reporting of adverse events is a nightmare. The incident form is long, complex, unintelligible and must be filled in at the end of a shift in your own time. It takes hours and you never hear anything afterwards. Therefore, adverse events are often not recorded.
‘GPs … under enormous pressure trying to plug the gaps’
While General Practice is Commonwealth funded (Medicare) rather than state, I think it is worth reporting the impact of the pandemic on them. They were overlooked in pandemic planning (and again in this article) and are under enormous pressure trying to plug the gaps for inaccessible services – trying to support the people who can’t access psychology or hospital care. On top of that, [they are dealing with] continually discussing changing goalposts and evolving health advice with an anxious and angry community. People are already burnt out and I’m not sure how things will function when cases increase from here.
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