health

"They left my daughter in agony for nine hours"

When 17-year-old Demi Ellul developed severe stomach pains on Monday afternoon, her mother Julie became concerned.

She took her daughter to a GP and was told she may be suffering from appendicitis and would have to go to hospital immediately. The doctor gave the family a note to take with them to Campbelltown Hospital. If Demi was in fact suffering from appendicitis, there wasn't a moment to spare.

When they arrived at the emergency department of their local hospital, they were quickly seen by a triage nurse. Demi's boyfriend joined them as they waited for a hospital bed to become available.

They tried to be patient. The emergency waiting area was filled with many serious cases including an older man suffering from chest pains.

They asked emergency staff for a blanket. They asked again, and again and again.

Three hours later a staff member threw a blanket to them. By now Demi was doubled over in excruciating pain and despite the fact there were a few spare chairs available was more comfortable lying on the floor in a fetal position. She fell in and out of a fitful sleep while her mother and boyfriend begged staff for help. Her mother took a photo of her daughter on the hospital floor. She couldn't believe this was happening. If emergency workers won't help you when your child is seriously ill, who will?

After nine hours Mrs Ellul made the heart-wrenching decision to take her daughter home. She wanted to lay her child down in her own bed where she could at least be warm and comfortable.

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They returned to the hospital the following day.

Mrs Ellul showed staff the photo of her daughter lying on their floor the night before and Demi was admitted after 10 minutes. She was given morphine but it was too late. Demi's appendicitis had progressed and she could no longer be operated on. The inflammation was just too severe.

Demi is now being pumped full of strong antibiotics in the hope the inflammation will reduce enough for her appendix to be removed and her agony to be over. Doctors warn this could take a further two weeks.

"This level of service - it frightens you," Mrs Ellul told News Ltd. "It's not good enough."

A report last year found Campbelltown Hospital has the second worst record in the state of NSW for waiting times. This is alarming considering the rapid growth in the area and the number of families that now reside there.

Its average time was 22 hours and 29 minutes.

Public hospitals are failing to meet national emergency access targets of 69 percent of patients. How can this happen in a rich country like Australia? What if our children become the next victims of a public hospital system that is struggling to cope?

Ryan, the husband of the triage nurse who saw Demi that night, called radio station Triple M and defended his wife. He said the hospital was overrun with more serious cases that night. He said two patients had to be resuscitated and ambulances were lining up.

He claims staff were monitoring every single patient in the waiting area. "If they're deteriorating, they obviously move up the list."

"My wife tried to explain to her [Mrs Ellul] what was happening behind those doors, and she even offered to take her in and show her exactly how busy they were. They had two people they were trying to resuscitate at the time. What do they need to do? Put them aside and take the appendicitis in?"

He said the area the hospital services has become too big for them to cope with and more funding is needed to upgrade it.

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said she regretted that the patient and her family were distressed by their treatment at Campbelltown Hospital. "The hospital has apologised, which is appropriate," she said.

"Campbelltown Hospital is a very busy hospital and I know its staff strive very hard to make sure every patient receives the most timely, high-quality care possible."

Mrs Skinner said the emergency department would be expanded as part of the hospital's redevelopment.

Have you ever faced a long wait at your local hospital?

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