AN 83-YEAR-OLD man has told how he was sent home from John Hunter Hospital’s overcrowded emergency department with an undiagnosed fractured skull, smashed vertebrae and brain haemorrhage.
Kevin Wiseman said he waited for more than 10 hours in ‘‘freezing conditions’’ in John Hunter to see a doctor after he fell from a bus in Hunter Street, Newcastle West, was knocked unconscious and suffered a severe gash from ‘‘ear-to-ear’’ on the back of his head.
Three days later and unable to bear the pain any longer, the pensioner asked relatives to call an ambulance and he was taken to Belmont Hospital.
A CT scan revealed Mr Wiseman had a fractured skull, brain haemorrhage and T12 vertebral back fracture.
Doctors told family they were ‘‘astounded’’ he was able to walk.
News of the case comes days after the Newcastle Herald revealed a Merewether man spent almost 24 hours waiting for a bed at John Hunter after suffering a potentially-fatal vascular brain tumour bleed.
Hunter medical staff and the NSW opposition have called for an ‘‘immediate inquiry’’ into bed numbers and staffing levels at the hospital and want NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner to intervene.
In response, Ms Skinner said Hunter New England Health chief executive Michael DiRienzo was responsible for ‘‘quality and safety of patient care’’.
‘‘It is unbelievable and frightening that this sort of thing is happening,’’ Mr Wiseman’s son Steve said.
‘‘Dad could have died, the conditions inside John Hunter were shocking and someone is going to die because of it. Before experiencing this, I never would have believed it was that bad.’’
When Steve Wiseman called John Hunter seeking an explanation for the lack of treatment, he was told his father did not fit ‘‘the protocol’’ to receive a CT scan. After being contacted by the Herald about the case this week, hospital general manager Michael Symonds offered his ‘‘sincere apologies’’ to the family. Mr Symonds said the emergency department was ‘‘extremely busy’’ the night of Mr Wiseman’s fall, including five cardiac arrest cases.
‘‘We are not interested in apologies, we want things to change,’’ Mr Wiseman said. ‘‘Our concern is if it happened to dad, it is happening to other people. Maybe the next person will not be so lucky, maybe they will die.’’
After arriving at the hospital about 6.15pm on Tuesday, May 29, Mr Wiseman was forced to wait eight hours, initially on an ambulance stretcher and then in a wheelchair, in ‘‘freezing conditions’’ in the ambulance off-load area outside the emergency department.
There were 10 ambulances, manned by 20 paramedics, queueing to offload patients. He waited another two hours inside the emergency department before a doctor stapled the wound about 4.15am.
Over the next few days, Mr Wiseman, who is described as ‘‘super fit for his age’’, was ‘‘vague’’ and in ‘‘severe pain’’.
Belmont Hospital doctors advised Mr Wiseman would have needed surgery if he were younger and told family he had to be ‘‘closely monitored’’ for a week. He is still recovering.