Rockhampton Hospital
Rockhampton Hospital

Sick baby made to wait for hours in Rocky ED

DIRT tracks smeared across the floor, vomit bags strewn beneath crowded seats, ambulance ramping one after the other, a seven-month-old baby struggling to breathe.

It was another busy night at Rockhampton Hospital last Thursday night.

Doting grandmother Helen O’Rourke bundled up her grandson, rocking him soothingly outside the Rockhampton Hospital emergency department’s doors.

For a day or two beforehand, he had been exhibiting cold/flu symptoms.

After discovering a young girl who he had contact with at daycare and who regularly had sleepovers with his big sister had contracted influenza B, the family rushed him to the hospital.

“Better safe than sorry,” Mrs O’Rourke said.

Three hours had passed, the ED was run off its feet and ambulance vehicles were ramping one after the other.

“My daughter went to the nurse. She said she understood they were busy, but her son is really ill and he’s seven-months-old,” Mrs O’Rourke said.

“They went through his symptoms again and said his oxygen levels were fine so we were just going to have to sit and wait for at least another honour, possibly two hours, before we would be seen.

“That wasn’t good enough. When it comes to little ones, I feel they should be seen earlier.”

The family went home and overnight monitored the infant’s breathing due to congestion, and in the morning, they took him to their local GP.

He was on the verge of dehydration and had contracted a viral infection in his little body.

After making sure he got plenty of fluids into him, the family decided to think twice about their medical care options.

“(On Monday) he was a lot better. He was back to eating and drinking,” Mrs O’Rourke said.

“I’d go back to Rockhampton Hospital if I had to, but I’ve spoken to my daughter and she said she will go to the Mater.

“She doesn’t have health cover but that will change.”

Rockhampton Hospital Acting Executive Director Celia Anich said on Thursday there were 142 patients presented to the ED, above the usual daily average of about 130.

Latest figures show Rockhampton Hospital had 4545 patients in August, with an average waiting time of “just 11 minutes”.

Of those patients, 27 were triaged as category 1 and “all of them were treated immediately”.

“Patients presenting to Rockhampton Hospital are treated according to their clinical need,” Ms Anich said.

“The sickest and most seriously injured are seen immediately and unfortunately other patients with less urgent conditions sometimes do need to wait to be seen.

“It is always preferable for people with non-urgent conditions to see their family GP in the first instance to keep hospital Eds for emergencies.

In regards to ramping, Ms Anich said it is currently a “busy time of year”.

“Multiple ambulances often arrive at the same time and there are surges in demand,” she said.

“But our staff always work closely with the Queensland Ambulance Service and all patients, whether they arrive by ambulance or in person, are assessed and triaged according to the seriousness of their condition.”

Advice is available from the 24/7 hotline 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84).

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