Wednesday 31 August 2016

Cutbacks, pressure, stress . . . no family deserves excuses

Published 26/07/2013 | 05:00

I WAS really upset this week when I heard about the ESBL contamination in Crumlin Hospital – both professionally as a doctor, but also personally as a mother.

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I have trained and worked in hospitals in Ireland and abroad in France, the USA, and Australia, and I can hand on heart say that I believe we produce some of the best frontline healthcare staff anywhere in the world.

It was instilled in us as students and Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors that a thorough system of checks and balances was essential in providing expert healthcare.

But Ireland has one of the highest rates of medical negligence cases per capita outside of the US.

Unfortunately, as a GP in more recent times, my experience dealing with many hospital departments hasn't instilled the same confidence that I would like to promise my patients.

Many times when I have followed up on cases of issues that would be considered administrative errors, the response I got is that due to cutbacks they are under pressure and therefore mistakes will happen.

The Crumlin case reminded me of this. In one way the checks occurred and the ESBL was identified. This is not ideal, but the truth is that no matter how rigid the sterilisation procedures for equipment, occasionally damage or infections will be found.

Of course, this should occur prior to the instruments being used again and again. There is much published about the best way to sterilise endoscopes and procedures and equipment vary. Unfortunately there will be times when families get a call such as they received this week.

However, surely when handling such a sensitive and upsetting issue, all the extra checks and balances should be in place to ensure the information given is correct. It is hard to fathom how the incorrect information got so far down the clinical and administrative chain that the families were notified before the mistake was noted.

As a mother I felt for the families involved. I've just spent some time in hospital having given birth to my beautiful son last week. I have also attended hospital with my two older children over the past years.

BEING a parent brings with it an overwhelming mix of emotions and when you have to surrender the care of your child to anyone, but especially in illness to a hospital or doctor, the anxiety and fear can be profound. Episodes such as the ESBL scare will do nothing to improve parents' confidence in an already stressed health system.

What happened in Crumlin needs to be a reminder to all of us that checks and balances are in place for a reason and being tired, overworked or understaffed is not an excuse for patients, parents and families to suffer. We all deserve better.

Nina Byrnes is a GP and an Irish Independent columnist

Irish Independent

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