Chronically understaffed, underfunded and mismanaged. Local media is slamming the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney no end.
The public hospital, situated in an affluent neighbourhood in the capital of the state of New South Wales (NSW) is said to be suffering from relentless budget cuts.
AdvertisementThe recent case of miscarriage at a toilet in the hospital has sent shockwaves across the nation.
Tuesday night a 14-week pregnant Jana Horska went to the emergency department after she experienced cramps.
When she arrived at the hospital at 7pm, Ms. Horska said there were 15 people in the emergency room, but what happened next would not occur even in a "Third World country", her husband Mark Dreyer said.
Horska, 32, was left waiting for two hours after being told she was miscarrying.
It was only after she collapsed in the toilet - alone and going through the agony of miscarrying her baby - that staff rushed to help.
"What makes me angry is that I got all this attention afterwards - and that is what I should have got (in the first place).
"Imagine if (the miscarriage) had happened in the waiting room with all the people around."
The couple, speaking to The Daily Telegraph at their home, surrounded by baby furniture, said they were too scared to contemplate another pregnancy.
"You are meant to enjoy your pregnancy but I will always be thinking about what has gone on," Ms Horska said. "Every time I go to the toilet I keep remembering that I was holding it (the baby)."
That image also haunts Dreyer, who ran to the toilet after hearing his wife's screams. "We are scarred forever," he said.
The NSW Health Minister, Reba Meagher, was forced to announce that pregnant women attending emergency departments would be transferred to maternity units rather than wait for treatment in crowded waiting rooms.
Then there was the case where the family of a dying man was forced to use his credit card to pay for a private nurse because there were not enough staff to look after him.
Phil Lindsay, 87, a World War II veteran, had less than a week to live when his wife became disgusted with the lack of care. She hired an agency nurse for four nights because the family did not want him left alone.
"It was so difficult to see him waiting," Christine Rijks, his daughter said. "We knew he didn't have long to live. We became too frightened to go home at night because we just didn't know if anyone was seeing to him. We hardly saw any staff during the day and we were worried sick about what would happen when we went home."
Her mother, Hilarie Lindsay, said she had been asked to wash her husband, to crush his pills and dress him each day.
"It was very distressing. I know the nurses are stressed out of their minds, but I was exhausted by the end of every day because we were the ones nursing him."
Mrs Lindsay said she took her husband's credit card and booked an agency nurse, who stayed with him overnight. Rijks said bitterly, "My parents were both under a delusion that his war service veteran's gold card would provide the best level of health care in Australia. Of more use was the American Express Gold Card."
Wards at the hospital are illegally understaffed, says the NSW Nurses' Association. "At North Shore Hospital we've got some shifts on the wards there run without registered nurses, now that's illegal," association assistant general secretary Judith Kiejda told ABC Radio.
"There are not enough nursing resources and the nurses that are there are at the end of their tether and they're walking away."
Professor Stephen Leeder, director of the Australian Health Policy Institute, noted that the Northern Sydney area, far from being advantaged by its affluence, in fact had a shortage of emergency beds.
While country's Prime Minister John Howard desperately tried to defend the record of his government, his Health Minister, Tony Abbott, ordered his department to investigate claims the NSW Government steered public funding away from the hospital.
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