Westmead hospital is in the news again for all the wrong reasons. When we threw out the state Labor government, we were told that conditions in hospitals would improve, especially in the area of patient care and waiting times. But now there is another scandal - letters from Westmead Specialists to GP's regarding their patient's care, have taken up to two years to arrive.
Westmead Administration knew there was a shortage of typists needed to type up Specialists letters to GP's but nobody did anything about it, so the correspondence backed up and up until it reached the ridiculous level where 700 people have waited up to three years for their letters to finally arrive back on their GP's desk.
A Sydney GP sent a woman with a skin cancer concern to a Westmead specialist on 21 August 2009 and didn't receive a letter from him until 16th September 2011, by which time, the woman had been dead for a year. The Westmead specialist doctor dictated a letter to the GP on the same day he saw her, the 21st August 2011, but it went into the queue for typing and arrived back on her GP's desk nearly two years later.
Dr Sheen who is the President of GP group Doctors Action leaked a letter to the journal Medical Observer, to be released today. "It is an absolute utter disgrace - the family doctor is the most important thing in the community, they are the ones who get people through the health system - how am I supposed to help a patient when the letter arrives nearly two years later?" he said.
Liberal Health Minister Jillian Skinner blames the previous Labor government for the mess. "This debacle has come about because the previous government kept slashing staff numbers in Sydney's west, even when it was clear that the system and its people were crumbling under the pressure" she said. She has told Westmead to hire staff immediately to shift the backlog and three weeks to bring everything up to date.
On Sunday we learnt that Westmead had tagged an 80 year old woman as a 58 year old man with cancer and after she was given the wrong medication, she died. Last month a boy died from a ruptured appendix after staff at Westmead Childrens and also Liverpool Hospital failed to notice a warning in the GP's referral letter. Then to top it all off, someone inadvertently closed one of the hospital water valves this month and there was no water for over six hours. Five dialysis patients had to be transferred to Auburn Hospital and elective surgery rescheduled as surgeons couldn't "scrub up".
No, this is not happening in a third world country, it's happening here in Sydney and it's a disgrace.