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Cancer patient waits two days

Date

Phillip Thomson

Suffering from pneumonia and cancer, Margaret Rees was kept waiting in the Canberra Hospital's emergency department for 36 hours before being admitted to a ward.

Suffering from pneumonia and cancer, Margaret Rees was kept waiting in the Canberra Hospital's emergency department for 36 hours before being admitted to a ward. Photo: Jay Cronan

A CANCER patient suffering severe breathing difficulties waited for two days in Canberra Hospital's emergency department before being admitted to a ward.

Grandmother Margaret Rees spent at least 10 hours of this time in a corridor, hospital records show. ''It was horrible,'' the 72-year-old Pearce woman said.

Records show Mrs Rees arrived at the emergency department one Sunday morning in July and was not placed in a ward until the following Monday night.

A Health Directorate spokeswoman said the hospital regretted any distress Mrs Rees may have experienced as a result of the 33-hour delay in the ED.

The spokeswoman said the average waiting time across the past three months for a person to move to an inpatient bed in a ward was 1.79 hours.

About 190 people a day were arriving at the ED during the period when Mrs Rees turned up, many with respiratory conditions.

''The access block was high due to the number of presentations,'' the hospital spokeswoman said.

Mrs Rees arrived at the ED suffering a narrowed airway, medically known as chronic pulmonary obstructive disease.

She said that when she finally was admitted she spent a week in hospital.

While hospital records say an ED medical officer looked at Mrs Rees at 3.56pm on the first day, the same records also say the decision to admit her was not made until six minutes past midnight.

Mrs Rees said toward the end of her wait for admission - on day two - she was taken to a ward, but after several minutes she was returned to the corridor again because staff had confused her with someone else.

''This was when I broke down crying,'' she said.

Also at about this time, Mrs Rees said she agreed to the humiliating experience of baring her naked backside in the public corridor to have a vital injection because there was no where else to do it.

ACT opposition health spokesman Jeremy Hanson labelled the elderly woman's case ''appalling''.

''The new emergency department waiting time figures again confirm that under ACT Labor the ACT's health system has gone from being one of the best in the country to one of the worst,'' Mr Hanson said.

The hospital maintained Mrs Rees spent 10 hours and six minutes in the corridor, and the remainder of the time in the proper waiting room or the acute section of the ED.

Mrs Rees and her family heartily disputed this, saying she spent well over 20 hours of her wait in the corridor.

She and her family also said they counted more than 20 people waiting in the same corridor.

ACT Labor is under increasing pressure about the Canberra Hospital in the lead up to the territory elections on October 20.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher this past week pledged to open 72 new beds over four years, including 40 general inpatient beds and six intensive care beds as well as extra beds for home care.

Labor's promise of more beds as well as doctors and nurses will cost $74 million.

The Liberals have put forward an urgent care clinics policy, which would put clinics in Tuggeranong and Gungahlin which would be open 16 hours a day, seven days a week.

The hospital emergency department's reputation was partly disfigured by a data doctoring scandal this year, in which up to 11,700 records were deliberately manipulated.

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