Northern Beaches Hospital has 'fundamental failings' according to doctor

 

Source: ABC

Doctors in surgical gear performing an operation.

PHOTO: The resigning anaesthetist said staff at the new hospital were insufficiently trained. (Unsplash: Natanael Melchor)


A senior anaesthetist has resigned from Sydney's new $600 million Northern Beaches Hospital warning management in an extraordinary email exchange that the facility "fails completely in its primary objective of patient safety".

The email, seen by the ABC, criticised the hospital for shortages of staff, equipment and training and detailed a case where a mother undergoing an emergency caesarean survived "against the odds".

The hospital is privately run by the nation's second-largest hospital provider Healthscope and serves both public and private patients.

The ABC has learned several anaesthetists have refused to sign hospital contracts and clinicians say they are still concerned about shortages two weeks after the official opening.

Hospital chief executive Deborah Latta quit just three days after the hospital opened amid ongoing criticism of shortages.

When the doctor at the centre of the email exchange resigned on November 23, he said there were "fundamental systemic failings in the way the hospital has been set up and is currently running".

"Let me be clear these are NOT "teething problems," he wrote.

"The hospital currently fails completely in its primary objective of patient safety," the anaesthetist said in the email to the head of his department, adding that a recent emergency caesarean was a nightmare for clinicians.

"There was inadequate supply of equipment, insufficiently trained staff, poor protocols for simple requests such as a blood transfusion, and a complete lack of a cohesive plan for [a] worst-case scenario.

That patient, Astrid McCrank, confirmed to the ABC there were medical concerns over the life-saving surgery to deliver her premature baby, Lillie.

Astrid and David

PHOTO: David and Astrid McCrank who was said to have survived her caesarean "against the odds". (ABC News: Nicole Chettle)

She told the ABC her anaesthetist had an argument before the procedure on November 5 because: "The blood bank only wanted to send two units of blood and the anaesthetist said, 'I'm not starting 'till I have 6'."

In his resignation letter, the anaesthetist, who was not involved in that procedure said: "There is a complete lack of morale throughout the hospital".

The email exchange began when the head of the anaesthesiology department, Alistair Boyce, emailed anaesthetists requesting feedback about the running of the unit.

Several anaesthetists responded, including the one who later resigned. He raised four points directly linked to patient safety in emergency situations, including:

  1. Poorly stocked trolleys containing vital breathing equipment
  2. The need for specialists to work after hours in the Intensive Care Unit
  3. The need for a first-response team for the most serious code-blue (emergency) cases, that could involve heart or respiratory failure.
  4. And specialist theatre, recovery and post-operative nursing staff in paediatric cases, because it is, 'not acceptable to train on the job'

The doctor also said elective surgery should be scrapped until industrial relations issues were resolved.

Lillie McCrank

PHOTO: Lillie McCrank was born seven weeks premature at the NBH. (Supplied)

The email exchange showed Dr Boyce responded saying he was disappointed and felt the claims were unreasonable and unfair.

He criticised the anaesthetist for "shouting out from the sidelines and doing nothing. Be part of the solution and not the problem".

Dr Boyce urged the anaesthetist to do an equipment audit himself.

"A lot of people are working their guts out, what are you doing?" he wrote.

"To be frank I am embarrassed by the conduct of certain members of our department and ashamed to be associated with them through the anaesthetic department of NBH," he went on.

The anaesthetist later resigned and forwarded the email conversation to dozens of his colleagues.

In his resignation email, the anaesthetist with 15 years experience in the public health system wrote: "Patient safety standards are clearly not being adhered to".

"There is no action on this other than to tell department members to get on with it," the email continued.

Hospital signs

PHOTO: Last month Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the new hospital was having "teething problems". (ABC News: Nicole Chettle)

"Any dissenting views have been threatened with having their accreditation removed. This is appalling behaviour. This constitutes workplace bullying and is completely unacceptable."

The ABC spoke to other doctors who said they remained concerned about the workload junior anaesthetist registrars experience at the hospital.

The ABC contacted both Healthscope and Dr Boyce with a detailed list of questions raised by the leaked email exchange.

The hospital's Communications Director Mark Gold said he could not say if Dr Boyce had been given an opportunity to respond to the ABC's questions.

He said Healthscope would only issue one statement in response.

It failed to answer any of the questions posed by the ABC, only pointing to the hospital's commitment to provide a "productive and rewarding work environment".

"The dedication, support and communication from the vast majority of the medical team has been superb," the statement read.

Dr Boyce did not respond to the ABC.

The Government will pay the private consortium that includes Healthscope, Leighton Holdings and Theiss $2.14 billion over 20 years to run the hospital.


 

For Sale - Buy - Swap - Rent