AN 86-YEAR-OLD patient of Dubbo Base Hospital has gone without food and drink on multiple occasions while waiting more than two days for emergency hip surgery, according to her anguished family.
Mavis Wieland remained in the hospital’s S ward yesterday as son Steve spoke up for fear of other families going through the trauma of watching an elderly loved one suffer “physically and mentally”.
Yesterday he revealed advice to him that on “Thursdays and Fridays elective surgery takes preference over emergency operations, unless the situation is life-threatening”.
Tamworth-based Mr Wieland said he had been told that the policy had come into force in recent weeks and felt that the community needed to know of it.
But acting general manager of Dubbo Base Hospital Debbie Bickerton yesterday said there was no policy to give priority to elective surgery.
“Elective surgery can always be interrupted for emergencies if deemed necessary by the consultant medical officer,” she said.
“Emergency surgery is performed according to the urgency category assigned by medical staff. If more than one patient with the same level of urgency is waiting for surgery, the decision on priority is made by the consultant medical officer.
“Emergency surgery may also sometimes need to be delayed in order to stabilise a patient first. This is to ensure the patient’s safety.”
Ms Bickerton acknowledged that “the patient” experienced a lengthy wait for her surgery and expressed regret for “any distress this may have caused her or her family”.
“We will be contacting the complainant to discuss their concerns,” she said.
“There was a lengthy wait due to the amount of unplanned emergency orthopaedic surgery at the time.”
Mrs Wieland, a resident of Maranatha House in Wellington, is reported by her family to have been X-rayed on April 24 at Wellington Hospital after taking a tumble.
After confirmation of a “broken hip” she was transported to the emergency department of Dubbo Base Hospital on Anzac Day, where by mid-afternoon she was “nil by mouth” in preparation for surgery.
The grandmother and great grandmother, born and bred in the Wellington district, received glucose intravenously when unable to eat or drink, her son said.
Mr Wieland said by 10pm on April 25 his “very frail” mother learned she would not be operated on that night because there were “other priorities higher than her”.
Early in the morning of April 26 Mrs Wieland was back to “nil by mouth”, only to be informed about 9.30pm that she was not going to surgery.
About 9am on April 27 Mr Wieland contacted the hospital asking why his mother was still waiting for her operation.
“The reply from staff was that on Thursdays and Fridays elective surgery takes preference over emergency operations, unless the situation is life-threatening,” he said.
Mrs Wieland was interviewed by an anaesthetist on April 27 when she resumed the “nil by mouth” regimen.
“The operation went ahead about 10.30pm to 11pm and she was in recovery between 2am and 2.30am,” Mr Wieland said.
Yesterday he was adamant his mother met the criteria for prompt surgical attention.
“Any delay in getting her hip operated on and repaired, so as to get her body mobile again to ensure other medical conditions do not set in, would be life-threatening in my opinion,” the son said
Mr Wieland insisted hospital staff were “run off their feet” and the “health system is broke”.
“That’s mainly been brought about by the previous Labor government spending money like drunken sailors,” he said.
But there could be no excuses for asking the elderly to accept an indefinite wait for treatment.
“Can you imagine the trauma for an elderly person of going through this, not being fed solid food for long periods of time and not knowing what was happening,” he said.