Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Neck pain + fever = healthcare system at breaking point

Image from here
I really feel like I jinxed myself with the sympathy fatigue post last Friday.

On Sunday morning, after a spell of mattress jumping and wrestling with his brothers, Nugget complained of a sore neck.

We insisted that he have a lie down but after a half hour or so looking up at the ceiling, his neck pain wasn't getting any better and he was feeling hot to touch. I scanned his body for a rash and didn't find one. He was whiney and teary.

We decided that it was best if he was seen by a doctor and, given that there was a possible unwitnessed injury (from the wrestling bout), I decided we should brave the emergency department (ED). I did not make this decision lightly. My last trip was less than fun.

Nugget and I headed to the local hospital. The ED was chockers. I didn't like our chances of avoiding a long wait, but even  I was surprised that it took one and half hours to even see the triage nurse, with the expected wait to see a doctor, another three plus hours. Unlikely people.

Our public health system is in crisis. I wish Mr O'Farrell and Mrs.Skinner all the best in improving the ED waiting times to four hours. If Sunday is anything to go by, that will be a huge job, let alone dealing with the budget blow outs, wrong-patient, wrong-surgery errors, lack of clinical coders, implementation of electronic medical records, improving the Essentials of Care, dealing with the deteriorating patient more appropriately, ageing workforce, nursing shortages, pharmacist shortages, burnt out Allied Health staff, poor clinical governance and the poor man I heard about today who ended up with a naso-gastric tube perforating his brain.

Thems big problems.

So Nugget and I took our chances with the sore neck and fever he had and decided to self-medicate with Panadol and Nurofen and hope for the best.

Only he was feeling worse on Monday morning, and a trip to the GP lead to another trip back to the ED at the local hospital and a whole lot of mother's guilt.

This time we got straight in (note to self: Next ED visit should not be on a weekend), had his neck x-rayed, had some blood tests and a urine test.

No neck fracture. No viral meningitis. Just a  muscle strain and a coincidental viral infection. Phew.

I hope that we won't need to be going back to the ED anytime soon. Something really needs to be done though because those poor people we saw who came in with diarrhoea and vomitting who were given a vomit bag and told to sit and wait? Those people deserve better. And the people who were made to sit next to them? They deserve better too.

Have you experienced the ED lately? How did you find it?


Cate said...

I don't go to the public ER (unless required for a specific reason) - where possible I will take the private option. And that's not because I'm a snob, or because I think I will get any better service at a private hospital. I do so because I can. If I can afford to take my child to a private ER (and I can't always, but if I can) - then I do for all the reasons you stated. The public system is chronically over-worked, underfunded and understaffed. If I can afford to ease this burden and free up a place in the queue for someone who can't, then I will.

Cate said...

Oh and I'm sooooo glad that your little one was okay...scary stuff that was!!! (I was nervous just reading it!)

Lizeylou said...

Poor Nugget! We had a hospital visit on Australia day after Little Miss M hit her face on her scooter and needed it glued together (better option than stitches ... ouch!) It took 3 hours to be seen and then once through the first doors another hour - the poor little thing was exhausted. But what can you do? Hope Nugget is on the improve - and dont feel guilty. I think youre an ace mum!

Photographer Mum said...

After spending much of last winter in the ED with middle child I have to say I was very lucky that we were seen almost immediately most of the time (most likely due to the fact that it was the middle of the night when we showed up). I once had to go on a Saturday afternoon and ended up waiting for 2 hrs with 3 feral children after my old school annual fair. That was not fun.

Life In A Pink Fibro said...

It's not as bad here in Fibrotown, though Mr4 and I did spend half a night there last year. They finally let us in the door when his howls were disturbing even those in the back of the ward. It's all in the timing. Plus all our weekend ER docs are those expensive NZ locums.

Lucy said...

Oh my. I am shaking my head in horror for you.

I have spent a lot of time in the public Women & Children's hospital (as a result of Charlie's broken femur) and we recieved the very best care. BUT, the entry via the ED was HORRIFIC, for all of the reasons you describe.

We have private health cover, but there is little point in using this cover in an private ED for children in Adelaide, as the only paediatric care is within the public hospital - and each time I dither, I realise that if my child is sick enough to be admitted (which is the only time I dare "risk" the ED) then I want a "one stop shop" and not have a sick child ferried from one ED at one end of the city over to the Women and Childrens.

Our GP has a "GP Connect" out of hours locum service which I use more frequently - it means that the long wait to be seen by a Dr is at home, rather than within the ED.

The state of our healthcare system terrifies me, it really does.

Alice Becomes said...

oh i feel for you! so glad he was okay...we are lucky in this small town, i took M2 to the ED last december, we saw a doctor within 10 minutes...thank goodness as the little man had a febrile convulsion about 30 seconds after the doctor arrived...so being in the country means you get to a doctor quickly but then we had to get a ambulance to the nearest big hospital as margaret river wasn't equipped to deal with potential meningitis...

thank goodness it turned out to be tonsilitis, still nasty but not as bad as first though...

i am in full agreement with you on this one though - something must be done. i believe everyone is entitled to medical care. it seems i am naive and idealistic though!

gill xo

joyce:waddleeahchaa.com said...

Things are not any better in America! We are in crisis too but I am thankful we at least have health care at all and dental, even if we have to pay for it. My heart goes out to people all over the world especially in war torn countries who have neither. joyce :)

Quill and Ink Handmade said...

Poor Nugget - hoping he's on the mend :)

I spent a week in (public) hospital with Lou about a month ago - luckily, we were whizzed right in because she's so young and she was so sick, and the care she got was absolutely wonderful. I will say this though: while waiting to be transferred to a ward, we watched an awful lot of chatting, lolly/chip eating, and weekend story swaps by the crew of doctors and nurses behind the big ED desk. All the while, I can hear a kid vomiting wildly a couple of cubicles over, another baby crying in pain, and another kid seemingly coughing his lungs up. Don't get me wrong, I know that docs and nurses need down time too, but it did go on for quite a while; and as our care was wonderful, I guess I can't really complain :)

Miss Pink said...

Oh poor Nugget! Hope he's feeling better soon.

~CSaM~ said...

:O A NGT perforating a brain!

I work in the public healthcare system and it's so overburdened.

We have doctors who accept private patients as public patients so that their registrar and resident can do most of the work.

As the specialist said to me, in the private system he has to do the jobs of 3 doctors, in the public system he does not.

I understand, but this mentality will only further burden the public system.

A friend of mine has recently returned to work from maternity leave. We both work on the surgical ward... she had 6 post op patients to look after by herself. GEE dangerous much!!

Glad Nugget is A Okay.

Sam-O said...

When my kids have been sick enough for a hospital trip, we tend to wait until pre-dawn and drive to the Childrens Hospital. It's the best time. We never hit a queue. Straight up to the triage nurse and in to a short stay ward etc.

In the case of an accident we head to the private hospital in the next suburb. The wait is less than the public hospital, but my health fund stopped covering private emergency dept visits last year, so I'm not sure I can justify $300 in the future... Although, I am fairly certain that I will fork it out to avoid a wait!!

On the plus side I recently changed GP's and the clinic has all female doctors, I've never had to wait and they have an emergency/procedures/observation room with 3 beds. It's great for head bumps and cuts that need stitching. They also have pathology and xray on the premises. It's a bit like my own hospital and it only costs the same as a GP visit.

MaidInAustralia said...

Oh I hate ER visits. In Brisbane, I've found the Mater Children's (which is public but if your child needs to be hospitalised you can opt to go private) is way better than the private hospital ERs I've tried, because at least they have paediatricians and other staff who are used to kids' and kid illnesses/problems. Even though waiting rooms suck (and you're right, must be so unhealthy) on the occasions when we've really needed to be seen quickly we have been. (Eg when our son was really ill (turned out to be pneumococcal septicaemia) they sent us right through, no waiting, and started treating him immediately without worrying about results etc. Saved his life and probably some limbs/ brain damage etc.

MaidInAustralia said...

PS, I meant to say I'm so glad your wee one is okay xo

Kamarine said...

I'm glad Nugget was okay.

ED's are pretty scary in wait times and all sorts. I get desperate finding alternatives but at the end of the day you tend to end up there.

I've found late night trips and weekends tend to be the busiest. *shiver*

And I'm sorry I've not commented much lately. xx I've been reading silently. Sorry!

Maxabella said...

Poor Nugget! What a shocker. Hope he's okay now. I need you to call me when this sort of stuff happens so I can worry along with you!!!!! x

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