Local couple share North Shore abuse story
By ANDY PARKS
HEATHER and Hamish Graham, of Goonengerry, know all about the horrors of Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital.
Two months after Sydney woman Jana Horska miscarried in the hospital's toilet, doctors have told a parliamentary inquiry the hospital is not operating at safe levels.
The inquiry has also revealed stories of operating tables breaking while patients were on them and cockroaches crawling through operating rooms.
But for Heather and Graham the horror of the hospital came directly from the mouth of one of their specialists who called Hamish a 'f***ing idiot' for not having private health insurance.
Hamish broke his neck after falling awkwardly while playing backyard cricket with his then six-year old son Rohan. He was paralysed from the neck down and was moved to Royal North Shore in January 2006 so he could be closer to his family.
"We'd heard all of these great things, that it was the best spinal unit in the Southern Hemisphere," his wife Heather said. "But it was a pit, a shabby pit with leak marks on the ceiling, and windows so dirty you couldn't see out."
Hamish stresses, however, that the care from the nurses was first rate.
It was several months later, in March 2006, that Hamish was visited by a respiratory specialist.
The doctor asked Hamish how the accident happened, and then asked if he had insurance. Hamish responded that he was a self-employed builder and handyman and had insurance for his work, but not for playing cricket in his backyard. "Oh you f***ing idiot," was the reply.
Hamish was shocked and thought he must have heard wrong. When he told his then fianc?e Heather an hour or so later, she was horrified.
Heather went to report the matter to the social worker in the spinal unit.
"I felt intimidated, but we confronted the doctor with the social worker present," Heather said.
"He just said 'I'm really sorry, I was having a bad day because it was my wedding anniversary and I had to work'." Heather says it has always bothered her she didn't pursue the complaint further, but now plans to write a written submission to the inquiry into the hospital.
"It was a disgusting abuse of power and position," she said.