FLU WARNING: Girl, 6, rushed to Lismore hospital
AFTER watching her daughter fight off a deadly strain of influenza for six days in hospital, Tara Clark said it was a battle her six-year-old shouldn't have had to endure.
Sent home twice in three days by staff at Lismore Base Hospital's emergency department, Ms Clark claimed her six-year-old daughter Sienna's diagnosed influenza hadn't been taken seriously by the hospital. This despite informing staff her daughter had influenza twice, when she was an infant and when she was four.
"It's been all over the news and everywhere that if your kid is suspected (to have) influenza take them to the hospital because it has been taking lives," Ms Clark said. "And we did that."
But last Thursday, two days after the second emergency trip, the Goonellabah mum said Sienna "wasn't urinating, she wasn't eating still she wasn't drinking, she wasn't staying awake."
Sienna's deterioration led to Ms Clark urgently dialling helpline, Health Direct where the nurse on duty allegedly said she was "shocked" the girl hadn't been hospitalised sooner before calling an ambulance to the family home.
In a statement, the Northern NSW Local Health District stood by medical care given to Sienna.
Chief executive Wayne Jones apologised "for any distress experienced by Sienna Clark and her family following her diagnosis of Influenza A at the Lismore Base Hospital".
"NNSWLHD has reviewed Miss Clark's record and can advise that the treatment provided to Miss Clark was appropriate," Mr Jones said..
"Due to patient privacy requirements, NNSWLHD cannot comment specifically on Miss Clark's treatment history."
While Ms Clark sang the praises of staff who cared for Sienna after she was admitted last Thursday, she called more stringent prevention measures such as bolstering emergency department assessments and more information about medical care options.
"I basically put my trust in what (the staff at emergency) had told me that all she needed was rest and fluids," she said.
"So, even though in my gut I knew she was declining, I was feeling lost about what I can do because we thought taking her to a doctor they would only say the same thing."
Ms Clark's concerns led her to find the REACH (Response, Engage, Act, Call, Help is on its way) initiative, which allows patients of any age as well as their carers or family members to be provided avenues to get a second opinion on diagnosis if necessary.
Mr Jones said the program has been trialled at one medical ward at the base since 2015 with plans to expand across all clinical areas, including emergency, in the coming weeks.
Frail and gaunt, Sienna continues to recover at home after being discharged.
Ms Clark criticised the hospital for not making the initiative known to them earlier during Sienna's plight.
"If we did know (about REACH) we would have used it for sure," she said.
Lismore paediatrician Chris Ingall said the REACH program was a "very health initiative" and there was a strong benefit of getting a second opinion.
While he did not treat Sienna, he has treated many children with various stains of influenza over his career.
He discussed some red flag symptoms parents should look out for when considering taking their hospital. These included the child's inability to pass urine in 12 hours, the child's normal level of interaction declining, and a fever that won't drop.
However, he said where possible "it's a much better idea to go to a GP first" due your doctor's familiarity with your family and their medical history.
More importantly, Dr Ingall said your GP could often provide strategies to care for your sick child at home.