Richard Brown, Capricorn
The article “Ocean View man threatens to sue hospital” and my experience at False Bay Hospital refers.
Six months ago I made my follow-up appointment at False Bay Hospital for March 18 this year at 7.45am with my consulting doctor.
I’ve had no issues with him, on the contrary I respect him very much and his passion and duty of care towards me.
It’s a fact that the dispensary at False Bay Hospital is unable to supply one’s meds in full or in part. So, I phoned the hospital on March 11 and 12 to determine if they issued private prescriptions. When I attended my scheduled appointment, I would have peace of mind having the private script as a safety net to either top up or get, in full, the required medication.
The hospital switchboard operator contacted my consulting doctor who told him they do indeed issue private scripts.
I then arranged for a third party who took time off work to collect me at home on March 18 at 5.30am. I was dropped at the hospital at 6am, becoming number five in the growing queue outside.
Approximately 7am, patients were allowed, in small groups, to enter for their observations for basic screening and to determine if scheduled appointments could proceed and the necessity to see your doctor.
The time line now moved to approximately 7.45am.
I was informed to make my way to the general reception area and hand in my appointment card. I then waited while they retrieved my patient file and for my doctor to call me.
From around 8.15am, things rapidly went downhill.
I heard my name called and to my surprise and dismay another doctor appeared. I asked her where my doctor was. No reply
Someone who overheard me shouted he’s running an hour late.I told the other doctor (at this point I was unaware she was an intern) I would rather wait and see my doctor, as he is my doctor and has more experience. She took offence to that and called me rude.
She did a U-turn to return my file to reception.
I had to make a judgement call – my doctor could be delayed further – and I decided to tell her, okay let’s proceed. Another U-turn and as we both entered her consulting room, I noticed my doctor had arrived – Murphy’s law.
As I’d already been accused of being rude, I reluctantly proceeded with her. I asked her who I was talking to? She mumbled her surname.
It became apparent to me no preparatory work was done prior to the consultation because I was volunteering more and more information to assist her to make a diagnosis.
Due to erratic blood pressure and other health issues, I was doing my best to retain some composure to continue with the consultation.
I mentioned most of my day I’m prevented from having normal activities. Walking to the corner shop is dangerous. I stumble, stagger. These symptoms had been conveyed to my doctor at my previous appointment.
Yet I’m supposed to be fine; no need for blood pressure tabs. They are not joining the dots .
At no point did the intern stop the consultation to suggest it would be prudent indeed I should see my doctor.
After 45 minutes I was exhausted; drinking lots of water. I had blood tests taken; more importantly my weight was now 66kg. A further loss of 3 to 5kg since my last appointment and around 20kg in two years.
Blood pressure was taken with four different readings. One hypertension reading was 150/88.
The intern said I don’t require blood pressure meds yet. My head was swimming, I’m dizzy most of the time and on occasion have a racing heart, etc.
She was totally unperturbed. I could go into more of the consultation wherein she was totally out of her depth, contradicting herself.
At great length, I explained the need for a private prescription. She insisted I must return the following week to obtain my blood results. I informed this young lady, my doctor knows I’m unable to commute for the above reasons and that he always phoned me. She looked right through me as if I wasn’t there. Then she changed her tune and informed me I must stay by my phone the following day (Friday March 19, the Human Rights Day long weekend) and she would phone me.
I knew she was lying; it takes about 48 hours to have the blood test results. Besides, when she phoned me on the Friday she revealed to me she was an intern and had phoned in sick. So much for staying by my phone and my human rights as a pensioner.
I was then dismissed by her to make my way to the dispensary to collect my medication. I handed in my folder, took a seat and waited. Because of new protocols it wasn’t busy, so dispensary was not under pressure like it was six months back.
Dispensary could not provide all the meds, especially the most important one due to shortages. That contradicted what the intern told me.
Then dispensary handed me a card indicating monthly dates to collect medication from the hospital. I asked the intern to state on her script that the meds should be delivered to my residence. The hospital has an arrangement for patients in the Capricorn area to have it home-delivered.
I’ve been using that for the previous six months, other patients too. It prevents too many patients going to dispensary because of the virus.
When I mentioned to dispensary that is incorrect, she (pharmacist) squiggled something on a piece of paper. She did not phone the intern to clarify.
By now it was 10.30am and I had to contact my lift to fetch me.
I trudged again to her office for her to intervene and clarify further. It’s not the patient’s responsibility to micro manage hospital mismanagement.
She didn’t phone dispensary to ensure the correct handling instructions were in place. Why not?
By that time, around 11am, I surrendered and made my way to reception to make my next monthly appointment in a worse state than I had arrived. I wanted urgently to return to my bed and exited the building and thankfully my lift was waiting in the car park
On March 19, I received a call from another doctor at precisely 9am. Load shedding, bad reception and their landline being fibre to my cellphone resulted in dropped calls, necessitating return calls by both parties.
She explained that the intern had phoned in sick and my blood results would be available the next week.
I then asked for an email address so I could submit the photo of the prescription regarding collection dates for meds. I explained to her that it was delivered and the ambiguity between dispensary and the intern.
On March 20, I sent a follow-up email to the official who had called me, elaborating further on my consultation. I emphasised again the urgency of that script.
On Monday March 22, my original consulting doctor phoned me at 2.08pm, saying the doctor who had called me previously requested him to arrange another appointment to determine the weight loss.
I took that opportunity to recap the events that took place the previous week – after all he is my doctor.
I mentioned I was prescribed an antibiotic that wasn’t really required and he gave me his email address so I could also forward him a copy of the script and the card stating the dates to collect not deliver. He said he would investigate the dispensary confusion and revert.
There was no response by email or phone. Is it a new policy of False Bay Hospital to ignore the patient and maybe he shall give up and go away? What a way to operate a concern, whether government or private.
On the same day (March 22), I sent a follow-up email to the doctor, supplying more information. No reply.
On March 28, at 10.56am, I sent another email to him; it’s self-explanatory and to date no reply.
On March 29, a final email to to the doctor that called me, copying her in on the previous email I sent to him.
Call this duty of care? I think not. It goes on and on – very debilitating, exhausting and I’m depleted.
No reply of any kind.
I’ve done my best to communicate with them. I now wait for April 15, remaining indoors to see if my medication shall arrive. Perhaps it will, who knows. Perhaps it won’t, who knows.
Shimoney Regter, Western Cape Department of Health spokesperson, responds:
Western Cape Government Health is sorry to hear the patient had a negative experience at False Bay Hospital. We have been in contact with the patient, who has declined a follow-up appointment. However, we encourage him to return to the facility to receive the necessary healthcare support.
Although hospital staff try to respond to email queries from patients as soon as possible, our frontline patient-facing medical staff are often unable to respond rapidly due to their workload. In an emergency, we encourage residents to access healthcare at their nearest hospital where they will be triaged and assisted.
To minimise the risk of Covid-19 spreading, we have implemented a system where medication is delivered to patients’ homes, which alleviates the need for hospital visits. Laboratory results are communicated to patients by means of a follow-up appointment so that we can monitor the patient’s condition. Where communication of results is urgent, a phone call will be made to the patient.
∎ By Friday April 16, Mr Brown had not received his medication or had any correspondence from False Bay Hospital.