The prime cause of patient and family dissatisfaction with the health services is ‘not being listened to.’ Patient Advocacy Manager with Sage Advocacy, Patricia O’Dwyer today told the Sage Summer School in Mullingar that of the 2,018 cases currently on their books, the most common complaint was that medical personnel are not listening to their patients’ concerns.
The cases presently being dealt with range from being unable to change a GP to infant and stillborn births which have not been investigated. ‘Parents want to know why their child died. They may have an inkling that there was something untoward during the delivery process and they will ask us to support them in getting that information’, Ms O’Dwyer said.
Regarding complaints about GPs, clients have had problems in changing their GPs or with GPs who refuse to transfer the patient’s records to another doctor, she said.
Older people are experiencing serious communication problems and criticise the system which ‘does not give them an opportunity to talk. There is also a reluctance to send patients for a second opinion. Sometimes older people think they’re on a waiting list when they’re not and this causes a lot of stress and upset’.
Ms O’Dwyer cited numerous cases of problems arising from delayed discharge from hospitals and nursing homes. One case involved an elderly man who spent seven months in a nursing home because of the lack of a home care package to support him in his own home and who couldn’t afford private care. A major part of Sage Advocacy’s work also involves patients who have been placed in nursing homes against their will.
Roisin O’Leary, Senior Patient Advocate with Sage, said that ‘when someone dies in hospital and an inquest is going to take place, some hospital authorities won’t meet with the family until after it has taken place’, she said, ‘this is becoming more common and is very distressing for the family. They may have to wait eighteen months to get an explanation as to why their loved one died or to address the care issues involved. There is a need to zone in on the delays in getting answers, the delay compounds the hurt.’
There have also been serious delays for families trying to obtain information from hospitals, ‘it sometimes takes two years to complete a review and the family gets very frustrated, which can lead to the family taking legal action’, she said. Ms O’Dwyer also asked if people in the health care services see the consequences of delayed discharges? ‘Frequently the patient deteriorates in this scenario, they are not considered a priority for rehabilitation because they’re ready for discharge so they’re lost in the system!’