Thursday, November 01, 2007

Miscarriage risk going unchecked

HOSPITALS in NSW have no guidelines for dealing with women in danger of miscarriage, despite the fact more than 11,000 such women seek help in emergency departments each year.

There is no specific attention paid to the emotional needs of women in early pregnancy who present with bleeding or pain, and no privacy provided for them and their partners.

These are among the findings of an inquiry into the case of Sydney woman Jana Horska, who miscarried in a toilet adjacent to the emergency unit at Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital on September 25, after waiting two hours for attention that never came.

The report, by senior NSW physicians William Walters and Cliff Hughes, was commissioned by NSW Health Minister Reba Meagher after Ms Horska and her partner, Mark Dreyer, went public with their case. The publicity prompted an avalanche of complaints about patient care at RNSH. It does not recommend further action against any nurse or doctor at the hospital.

But the report was dismissed as "flimsy" and composed of "motherhood statements" by NSW Opposition health spokeswoman Gillian Skinner, who said it did nothing to rebut the argument that Ms Horska's tragedy arose because the hospital lacked enough beds.

Ms Horska and Mr Dreyer, on legal advice, did not communicate with the inquiry, leading to speculation they will mount a compensation claim against the NSW Government.

The report by Professor Walters and Professor Hughes says Ms Horska's wait was "significantly longer" than the one-hour benchmark for emergency units, but points out the facility was under pressure on the evening in question.

Ms Horska's arrival was followed by the arrival of one patient coughing up large amounts of blood and another suffering severe head trauma.

The report recommends the replacement of intimidating terms such as "triage" and "reception area" with more user-friendly phrases.

It also recommends "communications training" for all ED clinical staff.


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