Queensland hospital’s mistake causes permanent damage to patient

Date: Nov 13, 2019

A Queensland woman is suing Townsville Hospital for medical negligence after staff improperly set her broken wrist, causing irreparable damage.

A small error that caused permanent pain and suffering

Katrina Vella broke her wrist following a fall on a bar’s dance floor in June 2015. After an X- ray at Townsville Hospital showed her wrist had been fractured, Vella was fitted with a plaster cast. The only problem was that hospital staff incorrectly set her wrist at a 45-degree angle to her arm.

Despite telling hospital staff that she was experiencing pain, along with swollen and numb fingers, Vella was sent home. It wasn’t until her follow-up appointment 10 days later that Vella realised there may have been a mistake. The doctor, who said he had never seen a setting like hers before, requested another X-ray before explaining that her wrist was still not healing. He recommended that she return three weeks later for another check-up.

Seven weeks post-break, Vella’s cast was removed and she found she had very little movement in her hand. Even after months of therapy, there was little progress and Vella was unable to bend her stiff fingers. Continuous pain led to a prescription that resulted in a sleeping disorder and the inability to drive and speak properly.

Necessary surgery recommended

In February 2016, Vella underwent surgery to fix her injured wrist, but still experienced extreme pain and poor finger function. Doctors later told her that it was possible they severed four of her tendons during the procedure. Vella had another surgery, this time with a private doctor, to restore the tendons in August 2016.

But that wasn’t the end. Vella had another surgery in April 2017 to remove a plate inserted during her Townsville Hospital surgery, which she discovered could cause additional damage to her hand.

A different life

Today, Vella’s everyday life is quite different from what it once was. Suffering from chronic pain due to the nerve damage in her hand, she cannot perform routine tasks, has not returned to work and is still operating on a lot of medication to help with the damage.

According to Vella’s legal counsel, the problem stems from the hospital’s staff not specialising in orthopaedics. “We now know that Townsville Hospital Outpatients Fracture Clinic is not run by orthopaedic specialists, but by house doctors who do not specialise in broken bones,” Shine Lawyers said. “The doctors at the clinic should have escalated Katrina’s case to an orthopaedic specialist in the early stages of recovery when she was not healing correctly. If this was done our client would not be suffering like she is today.”

Townsville Hospital did not comment on the case, which is still ongoing.

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