No excuses

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No excuses

Open Drum

Your father needs an ultrasound of his heart but this hospital does not have a heart ultrasound machine.The words dive-bombed into my already overloaded brain. Disbelief. Amazement. Frustration. Panic. And, finally, an overwhelming anger at the hopelessness of the situation my father was now in.This country hospital did not have the machine needed to see how much damage had been done to my father’s heart.This country hospital, located in a geographically-isolated area, did not have a heart machine which cardiac patients needed in times of crisis.We are continually reminded of the ageing population and the need to maintain good health, no matter what our age.  According to the Heart Foundation in Australia, a heart attack occurs every ten minutes. So, the fact that this country hospital did not have a heart ultrasound machine was not only unbelievable, it was disgraceful and shameful.My father had been taken by ambulance to the local hospital where we were told that he had suffered a minor heart attack. After a few hours, we were told it had been a major heart attack. He was transferred by ambulance to a bigger hospital forty kilometres up the highway. He was placed in the high dependency unit where nurses attended to the needs of a handful of patients who were hooked up to various machines that beeped and whirred in the otherwise silent ward.The diagnosis was now a major heart attack and kidney failure. The heart specialist had been called. Without the necessary heart machine, the extent of damage could not be determined and the course of action could not be ascertained.My father continued to deteriorate. The diagnosis was now massive heart failure, kidney failure and fluid on the lungs. When the conversation turned to whether my father had ever discussed being resuscitated, my mother and I fought hard to contain our confusion, bewilderment and anger.The heart specialist took me aside and explained the seriousness of my father’s condition and that he needed to be transferred to a bigger hospital with better services, hours away.I could sense the hopelessness of the situation and the helplessness of the staff. They were doing the best they could with such limited resources. A silent panic pervaded.My mother and I agonised over which decision to make. Time was critical. We finally agreed to the transfer which took hours to arrange. The ambulance drove the forty kilometres back down the highway to the airport where my father was flown to a Sydney hospital which had agreed to admit him.My father ended up dying in that Sydney hospital two days later. Precious time was lost because a country hospital didn’t have a vital piece of equipment. That piece of equipment was not a luxury, it was a necessity. If the hospital had had the equipment, a more accurate diagnosis could have been made and the appropriate course of action pursued at a much earlier time.I don’t want to hear about funding issues, political parties, the greater good or any other platitudes that anyone has as to why country hospitals aren’t better equipped. My dad’s gone and he isn’t coming back. But maybe he would still be here if the local hospital had had the equipment he so urgently needed?


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