Cancer patients face ‘third-world conditions’ in Manly hospital

Date: Mar 17, 2015

A Sydney oncologist has claimed Manly Hospital is keeping people in "third-world" conditions by making them stay in a 100-year-old ward meant for orthopaedic patients.

Dr Michael Copeman said individuals with cancer, dementia and delirium are among the patients moved to the ward, which he argues lacks privacy and removes their dignity.

Among the complaints Dr Copeman highlighted are poor natural light, limited private space and insufficient bathroom facilities. He told the Sydney Morning Herald the lack of a nearby toilet was especially distressing for those undergoing chemotherapy who suffer diarrhoea due to their treatment.

"I just feel it's a human rights issue – that it is wrong putting patients in there who are the least likely to be able to complain, or will be dead by the time their complaint is dealt with," he stated.

"Patients have to traverse the corridor [to get to the bathroom], with a lack of privacy and dignity."

Lack of beds causing problems

Adam Rehak, chair of the medical staff executive council for Northern Sydney, said he was not aware of the issues at Manly Hospital, although he claimed a lack of beds in facilities across the state was causing problems.

Not only are more people being squeezed into tighter quarters, there has also been an increase in mixed gender rooms.

"To save a bit of money, local districts have tried to consolidate beds into fewer wards and fewer rooms," Mr Rehak said.

"On a simple financial basis it makes sense but in the bigger picture it doesn't, because of infection control."

Health care professionals have a duty of care towards their patients and if this is breached, resulting in illness or injury, a hospital could face medical negligence claims.

NSW Labour has already committed to employing 840 additional nurses to emergency departments and paediatric wards across the state in an effort to improve the nurse-to-patient ratio and enhance patient care.

Premier promises new infrastructure

Responding to Dr Copeman's complaints, NSW Premier Mike Baird said the government is building the infrastructure that is sorely needed in the state.

"One of the incoming briefs I received as treasurer showed that more than half the state's hospital were 50 years old," he explained.

However, Dr Copeman said Mr Baird and Health Minister Jillian Skinner have only agreed to speak to him about Manly Hospital after the upcoming election has passed.

He added that the conditions at the facility are worse than when he visited Indonesia recently.

"How do I explain to patients about why we can't do [what they are doing in Indonesia] here?" he concluded.

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