ACT News

Teen musician's surgery for broken hand postponed four times

A Canberra father who said his musician son waited more than a week for surgery on a broken hand and had his operation postponed several times has raised concerns hospital emergency department staff are stretched for resources. 

Anthony Peterson's 18-year-old son Hamish Peterson had surgery at Canberra Hospital on Thursday afternoon, nine days after he first went to the emergency department.

ACTION: Anthony Peterson took to Twitter after his son’s experience.
ACTION: Anthony Peterson took to Twitter after his son’s experience. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

An ACT Health spokeswoman said although they were unable to comment on individual patients due to confidentiality, claims about how long the patient waited were "not consistent" with their records about when he had the procedure. 

"Canberra Hospital has been in close discussions with the patient and will continue to liaise directly with the patient and family to resolve any ongoing issues with the patient's clinical management," she said.

She said ACT Health was not aware of any recent cases of such lengthy delays. 

Mr Peterson said Hamish, a young pianist and university student, broke his hand in an accident on Friday September 26.

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He went for X-rays at a local medical clinic the following day and his details were sent to Canberra Hospital. He was called the next day by a senior doctor who wanted to recast his wrist and said he would need surgery, Mr Peterson said. 

Hamish went to Canberra Hospital emergency department on the Monday and was told to wait for a call the next day. Mr Peterson said the family went to the hospital on the Wednesday and was told to return in two days.

He said his son went to the hospital for his operation on Friday, a week after the accident, but was told to return the next day. He said it happened again on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday. 

"Our son is a musician, so whilst this isn't life threatening, it is certainly career threatening," Mr Peterson said.

He said he had no problem with how his son was treated at the hospital and staff were "extremely helpful" but said they "seemed to be stretched for resources". 

After his son was turned away after fasting again on Monday, Mr Peterson went public on Tuesday sharing the story on Twitter.

The ACT Health spokeswoman said decisions to postpone surgery were done in consultation with treating specialists and were based on the clinical needs and urgency of a patient. 

"This ensures patients with the most urgent and critical needs are seen above those with less urgent needs. It is regrettable that this does, at times, cause delays for some patients however it does ensure that procedures are conducted safely and appropriately," she said. 

The spokeswoman said as Canberra Hospital was the major tertiary and trauma referral hospital for the ACT and surrounding NSW, there were unfortunately "times when urgent, emergency surgery takes precedence over less urgent cases".

Mr Peterson contacted Chief Minister and Minister for Health, Katy Gallagher, who advised him someone from ACT Health would be in touch that day.

A few hours later, he received a call from a senior doctor at the hospital. 

Mr Peterson said he was "frustrated" by the wait, fearing it had made his son's injury worse.

Mr Peterson is not the only parent concerned about long wait times in emergency. 

Allison Stanhope questioned Ms Gallagher on a Facebook "Q and A" session about why she sometimes waited six to seven hours for her chronically ill three-year-old to be seen. 

Ms Stanhope said she thought the emergency department was a "massive worry".