'Out of it' but still discharged
DETERIORATING infrastructure and over-stretched resources have been blamed for a woman being discharged from Lismore Base Hospital late on Monday night 100km from home with no money, shoes or a phone.
Bonalbo resident Eve Sinton had collapsed from acute heatstroke and was taken by a friend to Bonalbo Hospital before being taken by ambulance to Lismore Base Hospital.
She has no complaint with the quality of care at either hospital. It was when clinical staff deemed her fit to leave shortly after 11pm that her problems began.
"That's when the real drama started because I didn't have my wallet, a phone or any shoes with me," Ms Sinton said.
"I was still dizzy and quite out of it and I was really in despair. I thought I'd try staying in the waiting room, but I still really needed to be lying down.
"They gave me the ward phone and I tried ringing my friend but he was obviously asleep and didn't hear his phone and I really didn't know anyone else with a car able to come out in the middle of the night.
"So I explained all that to the nurses and just sat there staring into space just imagining myself outside in Lismore in the middle of the night in bare feet with no money; that's quite a dangerous part of town at night."
Eventually staff found Ms Sinton a spare bed.
"It probably wasn't policy and I hope they don't get into trouble," she said.
A Northern NSW Local Health District spokeswoman denied aging infrastructure was to blame and said its policy regarding discharge from hospital was not conditional upon whether a patient presented alone or by ambulance but rather, on their clinical condition, support and transport availability.
"The transfer of the patient to the region's major referral hospital was necessary on clinical grounds," she said.
"When the patient's condition improved the patient was allowed to go home. However once staff became aware of the patient's circumstances and inability to organise transport, arrangements were made for her to remain in the hospital until the morning. This is standard practice."
However another distant patient, who asked for anonymity due to ongoing care, contacted The Northern Star claiming to have been left in a similar situ- ation three times last year after three hospitalisations by ambulance.
"I did have clothes the first time. The next two I was left stranded on the street in my pyjamas, but at least I was thrown out in daylight," she said.
"I wasn't allowed to use the hospital phone and had to wait in a metal bus shelter in stinking heat for three hours.
"My doctor was furious because it should've been a hospital-to-hospital transfer back to my (local hospital).
"I know it's an aging infrastructure but we can do a little bit better than this. People should be aware that if they go by ambulance they could get stranded."
Lismore Base Hospital Medical Staff Council member Dr Chris Ingall blamed the lack of beds which put "the excellent ED staff" under enormous pressure to prioritise sick patients.
"The council feels this is symptomatic of the high occupancy rate at Lismore Base Hospital, which means there is frequently bed-block which puts a lot of pressure on emergency department staff," Dr Ingall said.
"This won't be solved until we have a new emergency department and more beds."
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