By Cam Lucadou-Wells
A Cranbourne asthma-sufferer says she was left untreated for five hours despite breathing difficulties in Dandenong Hospital’s emergency department.
Noelene Nolan said she was diagnosed with a respiratory infection by her GP two days after she fruitlessly waited for an emergency doctor on the evening of 23 March.
Her plight highlights the hospital’s under-pressure ED, with reports of eight hours of ambulance ramping at the hospital.
Ms Nolan said her GP diagnosed her infection after taking her temperature – something that the hospital triage nurse failed to do.
The nurse listened to her chest, and observed it was “clear”.
But that was probably because she had been using Ventolin, Ms Nolan said.
Ms Nolan, an asthmatic and diabetic, says other patients were calling for nurses due to her struggle to breathe.
“Usually in that situation they put me straight on oxygen and a nebuliser with high doses of Ventolin.
“They then monitor me in a short-stay unit overnight or two nights and then I walk out of there and say, thank you, I can breathe again.”
But after five hours of waiting, she was becoming hypoglycemic and chose to walk out of the hospital untreated.
“I needed to go back to my car and have jellybeans and Coke so I could drive home and eat a meal at 9pm to get my blood sugar up.”
In the past, Ms Nolan had collapsed in the emergency department, unable to breathe due to an asthma attack.
“As I walked out (on 23 March) I said to the triage nurse you might want to check my records and see what happened last time.”
Two weeks later, Ms Nolan was still on antibiotics but feeling “knocked around” and “weak”.
She says if she had been diagnosed at the hospital, she may have recovered more quickly.
After Ms Nolan lodged a complaint, a Monash Health liaison officer contacted her and welcomed her back to the hospital, she said.
“The officer admitted I didn’t get the treatment I deserved”, Ms Nolan said.
A Monash Health spokesperson said emergency department patients were “seen in order of clinical urgency”.
“We understand that the wait can be an anxious experience and apologise for any distress experienced by our patients”.
According to Monash Health, it had investigated Ms Nolan’s complaint. Its records didn’t align with some of Ms Nolan’s claims.
“If I had a choice at the moment between being treated at Monash and dying at home, I would choose dying at home,” Ms Nolan said.
“The only reason they asked me to come back was to cover their own backsides.”
In January, Ms Nolan was featured in Star News with Opposition Health spokesperson Georgie Crozier and Opposition Leader Matthew Guy calling for an increase in elective surgery.
Her chronic health battles have also been compounded by two terrifying home invasions in Hampton Park in 2017.
In State Parliament on 23 March – prior to Ms Nolan’s visit to Dandenong Hospital – Health Minister Martin Foley responded to questions from Mr Guy about ambulance ramping outside Dandenong and Maroondah hospitals.
“We know that as a result of the global pandemic our ambulance services are under pressure like they have never been before,” Mr Foley said.
The 91,000 code one ambulance call outs in the last reporting quarter amounted to the second busiest in Ambulance Victoria’s history.
Mr Foley also pointed to “significant infection prevention and control measures” at the interface of ambulances and emergency departments.
“The interface between those two does result, in the context of patient flow through from Ambulance Victoria’s care to the emergency services care, these bottlenecks in the system, commonly referred to as ramping.”