‘Degrading and stressful’: Patient's two-hour hospital ordeal reveals healthcare system flaw

Adelaide is a city known for its liveability and strong community spirit.

But even the best cities aren't immune to the pressures that can weigh on a health system.

In an especially concerning instance that hit close to home for many of our readers, Michelle Hatt, a 52-year-old Adelaide local, experienced a harrowing ordeal that underscores the growing stress on our emergency medical services.



On 6 January, after becoming tired and losing consciousness, followed by the frightening loss of sensation in her arm, Hatt’s instincts likely told her that every second could mean the difference between life and death.

Paramedics, focusing on her symptoms, suspected a seizure.


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Michelle Hatt was sent to the hospital after losing consciousness. Credit: Shutterstock


Yet, on arrival at Lyell McEwin Hospital, Hatt found herself in a predicament.

She waited in the emergency department for two and a half gruelling hours as over 40 others queued for emergency assistance.

After her admission, Hatt reportedly saw a single nurse in eight hours.

Doctors later confirmed through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that Hatt suffered a stroke.

Hatt said the wait to see a medical staff was ‘degrading’ and stressful.



‘My feelings were I didn’t want to become disabled or lose my children because I passed (died) from not being diagnosed properly,’ she said.

‘You worry you’re going to leave your children behind, all because nobody is listening.’

‘You don’t get heard when you’re there. You’re just a number because there’s no staff.’

South Australia (SA) Health apologised to Hatt for her experience.

According to the department's guidelines, any patient waiting more than 30 minutes for transfer to the emergency department is classified as delayed or ramped.

SA Health reported that Hatt’s transfer to the emergency department was delayed by 66 minutes.

Initially, medical personnel failed to recognise that Hatt was experiencing a stroke. However, she underwent six sets of observations conducted by nursing staff "at regular intervals" throughout the night.

‘People who present to our ED are always prioritised according to their clinical need,’ SA Health said.

‘Patients are continually monitored from arrival, with those requiring the most urgent care always seen first.’


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Hatt spent two and a half hours just to be admitted inside. Credit: Shutterstock


A Modbury Heights resident also shared the same fate as Hatt.

She was suffering from a painful leg ulcer, and her general practitioner (GP) referred her to a hospital for urgent treatment.

However, she spent ten hours in the Lyell McEwin Hospital Emergency Department without seeing a doctor.

In another incident, the family of Hectorville resident Eddie Fitchett, aged 54, attributed his death to a struggling health system.

On the day of Fitchett's passing last year, emergency services were contacted three times within a span of 10 hours due to his abdominal pain and vomiting.

However, a code white situation within the healthcare system resulted in emergency departments throughout the city being inundated, causing ambulance backups and preventing patients from being promptly admitted.



Shadow Opposition Leader David Speirs branded the current state of ramping as 'catastrophic.'

‘We know that 3759 hours were lost on the ramp in February,’ Speirs said.

‘Labour came to power (in 2022) saying we’ll fix this...and they’ve taken us off a cliff.’

In defence, Premier Peter Malinauskas points to improvements and vows of continuous investment.

Malinauskas stated that one factor exacerbating the issue of ramping at the Lyell McEwin Hospital is the scarcity of general practitioners (GPs) willing to bulk bill patients in Adelaide's northern suburbs.

‘The Lyell (McEwin) has seen an extraordinary number of cases you’d usually expect to see at a GP,’ he said.
Key Takeaways

  • Michelle Hatt experienced a stroke and had to wait outside the Lyell McEwin Hospital emergency department for over two hours, feeling 'degraded' due to the lack of attention from staff.
  • Despite suffering a serious condition, Hatt said she did not receive prompt medical attention partly due to overcrowding in the emergency department and staffing issues.
  • SA Health apologised for Hatt's experience, stating that on 6 January, the hospital faced high demand, and her transfer to emergency was considered delayed by 66 minutes.
  • The issue of ambulance ramping and hospital waits has been highlighted as a significant problem in the South Australian health system, with the Premier acknowledging the need for further improvements despite some recent progress.
What do you think of this story, members? Have you, or anyone you know, experienced the same in your local hospital? Let us know in the comments below.
 
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Now consider what happens in rural hospitals where they can only employ locum doctors on a temporary and very expensive basis for a few days at a time.

Yet the Tas Liberal government wants to spend $750 000 000 of OUR taxpayers' money on a new stadium for the AFL. The AFL should pay for its own stadiums!
 
I watched triage and its a joke. three times I went in with chest pains and another lady was there before me, but I started noticing people were being seen in the same order in which they were triaged. It appeared to have nothing at all with condition. IN 30 mins I had a nurse take my bp- systolic was over 200, she told me to stand and it went to 233. BY all accounts I should have been dead or atlas in a coma. Yet I was not seen for another 5 hours and that was being put in cubicle by a nurse. It was a total of 8 hours before I was seen by a doctor. It really is shameful. It's like they don't care. It's more like standing at a check and being seen in turn of your arrival in the line not be need at all.
 
I went to the same E D only a couple of days ago. It looked as though it would have taken hours just to get to the desk, so I left & saw the priority care at my local medical centre. It took up to maybe an hour of my time before I went home with antibiotics. Unless life threatening, I wouldnt go to the lyell mac ED (that is maybe after serious thought)!
 
I had a similar experience with my son. I got home to find him in distress and rang the dr he came down and said he needed to go straight to hospital he rang them and gave me a letter I got there with him and saw triage where I was virtually called a liar and he was put through the rigramole when the dr came looking for us. I told him what happened. My son was in dire straits he had perotonis and needed life saving surgery. They finally got him into surgery and he died on the table he was rescusitated and was sent straight to icu I was so furious. He was only 17
 
My 83 year old husband went through a similar experience at Nepean Hospital in Penrith. He had breathing problems, has a pacemaker and two stents and was taken to the hospital by ambulance in the evening. He spent 15 hours in Emergency sitting up on a hard chair and later given a pull-out bed surrounded by dementia patients who spent the night talking to him of their imaginary world. He was given one sandwich and some water during that period. As he went in the weekend, the Emergency was full of people who had taken drugs and spent the night abusing the staff and laughing amongst themselves. The staff did little to protect themselves. Nothing is ever mentioned in the news or on the media about this situation. Our health system is now far below the level of other countries. Yet there is dead silence from the politicians who can afford private health. Are they trying to abolish public health as they do in America? Does anyone have a clue what's going on amongst the parliamentarians?
 
The problem with such delays is that people are going to emergency for the most mundane issues instead of going to GPs. Our hospital policy is that nobody is turned away and having worked in Emergency for a number of years I have even seen people come in for 'chest pain' because they thought they would be see quicker when they actually wanted just a medical certificate not to go into work/attend court/community service. I put the suggestion forward for triage to direct non Emergency issues be directed to the GP clinic next door and the real emergencies to be seen in the department but it was rejected. Until people realise it is an 'Emergency Department' for emergencies and more funding from the government nothing is going to change.
 
I watched triage and its a joke. three times I went in with chest pains and another lady was there before me, but I started noticing people were being seen in the same order in which they were triaged. It appeared to have nothing at all with condition. IN 30 mins I had a nurse take my bp- systolic was over 200, she told me to stand and it went to 233. BY all accounts I should have been dead or atlas in a coma. Yet I was not seen for another 5 hours and that was being put in cubicle by a nurse. It was a total of 8 hours before I was seen by a doctor. It really is shameful. It's like they don't care. It's more like standing at a check and being seen in turn of your arrival in the line not be need at all.
Our Public Hospital system has been run down for may years quite deliberately by the assorted LNP governments of the last many years. Added to which our rural hospitals, and that might be the one Public Hospital in a town of 30 000 people, are compelled by our doctors' distaste for living and working rurally to employ locum doctors who are temporary for as short a time time as in a weekend, have little responsibility except to their own ethics and require travel and accommodation plus around $1 500-$3 000 per day payment. Such rural Public Hospitals may have a top-heavy bunch of administrators and Board of Directors and CEO who live locally and are more concerned with saving money than with saving lives; a helicopter to convey a critically ill patient to a major city could cost the hospital maybe $10 000 or more depending on the distance, which equates with time, there and back. That is what we are up against.

Ok; you want to cut income taxes that pay for Public Hospitals? You want a taxpayer-paid AFL stadium costing us $750 000 000?
 
The problem with such delays is that people are going to emergency for the most mundane issues instead of going to GPs. Our hospital policy is that nobody is turned away and having worked in Emergency for a number of years I have even seen people come in for 'chest pain' because they thought they would be see quicker when they actually wanted just a medical certificate not to go into work/attend court/community service. I put the suggestion forward for triage to direct non Emergency issues be directed to the GP clinic next door and the real emergencies to be seen in the department but it was rejected. Until people realise it is an 'Emergency Department' for emergencies and more funding from the government nothing is going to change.
Yes. Well said.
 
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My 83 year old husband went through a similar experience at Nepean Hospital in Penrith. He had breathing problems, has a pacemaker and two stents and was taken to the hospital by ambulance in the evening. He spent 15 hours in Emergency sitting up on a hard chair and later given a pull-out bed surrounded by dementia patients who spent the night talking to him of their imaginary world. He was given one sandwich and some water during that period. As he went in the weekend, the Emergency was full of people who had taken drugs and spent the night abusing the staff and laughing amongst themselves. The staff did little to protect themselves. Nothing is ever mentioned in the news or on the media about this situation. Our health system is now far below the level of other countries. Yet there is dead silence from the politicians who can afford private health. Are they trying to abolish public health as they do in America? Does anyone have a clue what's going on amongst the parliamentarians?
Are they trying to abolish public health as they do in America? Most probably.
Does anyone have a clue what's going on amongst the parliamentarians? Self-help.
 
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My 83 year old husband went through a similar experience at Nepean Hospital in Penrith. He had breathing problems, has a pacemaker and two stents and was taken to the hospital by ambulance in the evening. He spent 15 hours in Emergency sitting up on a hard chair and later given a pull-out bed surrounded by dementia patients who spent the night talking to him of their imaginary world. He was given one sandwich and some water during that period. As he went in the weekend, the Emergency was full of people who had taken drugs and spent the night abusing the staff and laughing amongst themselves. The staff did little to protect themselves. Nothing is ever mentioned in the news or on the media about this situation. Our health system is now far below the level of other countries. Yet there is dead silence from the politicians who can afford private health. Are they trying to abolish public health as they do in America? Does anyone have a clue what's going on amongst the parliamentarians?
The only way things will change is if people start videoing/documenting their issues and then going to the media to keep up the pressure for change. As an ex employee of Nepean hospital we were not allowed to get involved with the media so it's up to patients and their families to do this.
 
I had a similar experience with my son. I got home to find him in distress and rang the dr he came down and said he needed to go straight to hospital he rang them and gave me a letter I got there with him and saw triage where I was virtually called a liar and he was put through the rigramole when the dr came looking for us. I told him what happened. My son was in dire straits he had perotonis and needed life saving surgery. They finally got him into surgery and he died on the table he was rescusitated and was sent straight to icu I was so furious. He was only 17
Problem there was that just maybe there were only two locum surgeons available and they could have been operating on some other poor devil. That could he happen all too easily in a rural hospital. That sort of maltreatment is not excusable, wherever it occurs.
 
Now consider what happens in rural hospitals where they can only employ locum doctors on a temporary and very expensive basis for a few days at a time.

Yet the Tas Liberal government wants to spend $750 000 000 of OUR taxpayers' money on a new stadium for the AFL. The AFL should pay for its own stadAbaslutely agree

Now consider what happens in rural hospitals where they can only employ locum doctors on a temporary and very expensive basis for a few days at a time.

Yet the Tas Liberal government wants to spend $750 000 000 of OUR taxpayers' money on a new stadium for the AFL. The AFL should pay for its own stadiums!
Absolutely agree 100%. Local sport be it AFL, NRL etc and to some extent the other big money team sports should all be funded by themselves not paid for by taxpayers, for whom these 'sports' have no interest to at least 75/80% of them. The rest (followers) are just brainwashed by the media.
 
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My 83 year old husband went through a similar experience at Nepean Hospital in Penrith. He had breathing problems, has a pacemaker and two stents and was taken to the hospital by ambulance in the evening. He spent 15 hours in Emergency sitting up on a hard chair and later given a pull-out bed surrounded by dementia patients who spent the night talking to him of their imaginary world. He was given one sandwich and some water during that period. As he went in the weekend, the Emergency was full of people who had taken drugs and spent the night abusing the staff and laughing amongst themselves. The staff did little to protect themselves. Nothing is ever mentioned in the news or on the media about this situation. Our health system is now far below the level of other countries. Yet there is dead silence from the politicians who can afford private health. Are they trying to abolish public health as they do in America? Does anyone have a clue what's going on amongst the parliamentarians?
That would be the last thing Australia wants. Americans get free hospital emergency treatment, however if they require a hospital stay, then they have to pay out of their own pocket, if they don't have private health cover. The majority of Americans have private health of some sort for this reason. Thankfully, we don't follow that system.
 
I feel blessed to have the resources of John Hunter Hospital near to my home.
Hubby went into septic shock, was taken to the Mater hospital because he was a current cancer patient, Mater immediately recognised the seriousness of his condition and we were taken straight to John Hunter and then ICU within the hour.
If they had not acted as quickly as they did, I would have been a widow on that day.
It saddens me that some people are treated so badly. I have to say that the care in ICU afforded to my Johnny was A1 ... they saved his life. It got to the point when I was told to get everyone in who needed to say goodbye, but the ICU department did not give up on him, not even for a moment.
He got through that then spent another month in a ward, where he was also treated very well.
He is still under going cancer treatment and is always treated with dignity and respect there.
I can't believe some families have gone through so much at the hands of an inadequate system.
One can only hope the state Governments put people first and sporting facilities last.
 
It appears more and more people are ditching private health due to the rising costs. Therefore they are going to public hospitals. Of course this puts more strain on the waiting list as well.
Private hospitals do not have an ER. The ambulances take you straight to a public hospital so we all have to be triaged in public hospital. More is the pity because it’s life threatening
 
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Private hospitals do not have an ER. The ambulances take you straight to a public hospital so we all have to be triaged in public hospital. More is the pity because it’s life threatening
The private hospitals near me have an emergency department. You have to pay though, as it isn't classed as a hospital stay. Plus, you can nominate with the ambulance paramedics to send you to the private hospital.
 
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Private hospitals do not have an ER. The ambulances take you straight to a public hospital so we all have to be triaged in public hospital. More is the pity because it’s life threatening
I would gladly pay if it was quicker - Thank you I will have to check this out
 
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