The son of a 93-year-old war widow who spent five hours waiting in the Launceston General Hospital emergency department alone says the Tasmanian health system has hit a new low.
Greg Maloney's elderly mother was taken to the LGH via ambulance on Friday morning. Living with diabetes and battling an infection, he said she was shaking uncontrollably and complaining of unbearable pain.
After being told his mother would be taken straight to the ED for assessment, Mr Maloney did not accompany her to the hospital.
"They [paramedics] told us not to rush. That it was likely they would be ramped for hours and we wouldn't be able to see her anyway."
However, when he arrived about 2pm she was still in the waiting room.
"I went to mum and she told me she had been sitting there since the ambulance dropped her at the hospital - that was five hours ago," he said.
"She could have been with the ambulance for some time, but Mum said that she went to the waiting room, and they left her there.
"This is a lady that has all these problems. She wears a pad, she is on a high dose of diuretics ... and she was sitting in a wet nappy.
"She was left in a wheelchair where she couldn't even go up and ask anyone how long it was going to be, because she couldn't physically get there."
Despite being her primary carer, Mr Maloney said no one from the hospital attempted to contact him during his mother's wait.
"If they had, if I had realised ... I would have been there in five minutes."
When she was eventually seen by a doctor Mr Maloney said it was the first assessment anyone had done on her.
But despite having been at the hospital twice in the past six weeks with similar problems, he said it was like starting from square one.
"They had the records of her previous visits. They knew she had a bad heart, only 20 per cent of her kidneys are working, she is diabetic," he said. "What more does it take to be seen."
Once admitted, Mr Maloney said his mother was placed in the hospital's plaster room because "there were no beds available anywhere else".
When he went back on Friday evening to check on her, he said a nurse told her she wasn't allowed to eat.
"I said she hasn't eaten anything since this morning, and you think that's OK? But then when the doctor came in, and I questioned him on it, he said there was no reason she couldn't eat. So we gave her food."
Mr Maloney's mother stayed at the LGH forone night when the family requested a transfer to St Vincent's. However, they were told they would need to organise this themselves.
"We were told they didn't have anyone to help transfer her," Mr Maloney said.
"So we went to pick her up and transfer her across. We were told she was right to go, but she was sitting in a hospital gown. It was freezing cold ... we needed to dress her. My biggest fear is if it had of been an elderly woman with no family advocating for her, what would have happened?"
Mr Maloney plans to issue a formal complaint with the Health Department over his mother's treatment.
He said he has also been inundated with messages from people sharing similar experiences with the hospital, after posting the story to Facebook. The original post has since been shared almost 300 times.
Health Minister Sarah Courtney said the government never wanted to see Tasmanians waiting too long for care, and that her office had engaged directly with Mrs Maloney's family to discuss her experience.
"My thoughts are with Mrs Maloney and her family at this time and I wish her a speedy recovery," she said.
"The community can be assured we have been taking action to take pressure off the LGH ED. There are now over 270 FTE more nurses now at the hospital than in 2014, and we have restored services and re-opened wards."
Ms Courtney said the government had also released a plan to deliver new ward and beds at the hospitals, through its promised $580 million redevelopment.
When questioned about the Mrs Maloney's treatment, a Tasmanian Health Service spokesperson said it would be a serious breach of a patient's privacy and confidentiality to publicly discuss their medical situation.
"At all times, the THS and its dedicated healthcare professionals strive to ensure all patients are seen as quickly as possible and any necessary treatment provided," the spokesperson said.
"This is done in accordance with established triage protocols which ensure that people in most need of critical or life-saving medical intervention receive it as a priority."
According to the Health Department's latest annual report, in 2019-20 statewide 64.6 per cent of ED patients were seen within the recommended triage time.
At the LGH, the number of ED presentations seen within the recommended triage time for all categories was 60.8 per cent, compared to the KPI target of 80 per cent.
Mr Maloney said too many people were continually being let down by the state's health system and more people needed to speak out.
"There is a pattern that's developing where the hospital is letting people down. To the point, where lives have been lost," he said.
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