A social worker left in severe pain by a finger injury was forced to spend a fevered night sleeping in a fitness room at Fiona Stanley Hospital — three years after similar issues at the $2 billion facility were raised with health bosses.
Claire Fisher, 45, was told she needed urgent surgery after being bitten or stung on the finger at her southern suburbs home last Wednesday as she hung out the washing.
But after being treated in the emergency department and admitted to Fiona Stanley’s ward 4C, she was also told she would have to sleep in a fitness room-store room, full of trolleys, stools and an exercise bike — but little medical equipment.
The mother-of-one was also given a bell to ring if she needed help, which she did when she began vomiting.
But the bell could not be heard by nurses — so Ms Fisher had to search for staff to give her some pain medication.
“The staff were wonderful, caring, and attentive — but I was really surprised at the room they had to put me in,” Ms Fisher said. “They seemed embarrassed at having to do it.
“A nurse told me the hospital always puts people in that room … and the staff hate it.
“We need to help these professionals to do their jobs properly by putting in more urgently needed, proper hospital beds and rooms.”
Ms Fisher was told that the ward status at the time was “over census”, which was the same description given when a similar situation arose at Fiona Stanley in 2015.
Then, relatives told how an elderly patient in hospital for acute renal failure was moved to a physio gymnasium and given a bell to ring, while another patient said she had been placed in a similar room for 12 hours.
At the time, then opposition leader Mark McGowan described the situation as “outrageous …absolutely Third World”, while then opposition health spokesman Roger Cook said the incident was “a clear sign the hospital is in crisis.”
Details of Ms Fisher’s treatment emerged after a woman in pain was forced to lay on the floor at Geraldton Hospital.
Mr Cook — now Health Minister — referred The West Australian to a response to the Fiona Stanley Hospital incident given by the South Metropolitan Health Service.
A spokesperson said moving patients to overflow areas was “done as a last resort and for short periods of time” and that nurses supervising overflow areas provide the same level of patient care as that in a ward.
“The overflow area is equipped with the same equipment as a regular hospital room, with patients provided a manual call bell to alert staff,” the statement said.
“Evidence shows minimising the time patients spend in an emergency department significantly decreases patient mortality rates.
It is important for patients to move from an emergency department into the hospital as an inpatient as soon as possible.”