Hospital negligence occurs when treatment provided by a health professional such as a doctor, dentist, pharmacist, chiropractor or hospital/nurse falls below an acceptable standard as part of your treatment whilst in hospital.
The duty of care owed by a doctor or institution such as a hospital is high but it must be accepted that certain medical treatment is not always successful and injuries do result and one cannot blame the hospital or medical provider. In other words negligent treatment is more than a simple reasonable mistake.
When a patient visits a public or private hospital because of a problem the patient has a right to expect a proper history is taken and a diagnosis on the condition is made within a reasonable period of time. Additionally one would expect a referral for treatment to the appropriate doctor and/or medical specialist and if surgery is to be performed that it is done so in a reasonable period of time with the appropriate skill and care of required of that medical specialist. Additionally, in a hospital one would expect that post operative care provided by nursing staff and other health professionals is reasonable, timely and minimises any further ongoing complication.
At many hospitals most people are treated with compassion, professionalism and the appropriate skill care required however there are occasions when such medical diagnosis, referral for treatment, surgical intervention and post operative care is inappropriate and falls well below the standards required. There are numerous surgical interventions on patients at public and or private hospitals throughout Australia every day. Not all surgery is successful and there are issues and questions that must be answered on a poor outcome including the following:-
(a) Should the patient have had other tests prior to the operation that might have suggested a different form of operation or no operation whatsoever considering the risks involved;
(b) Has the patient had explained to him/her the risks of the operation in an informed manner so as to make an informed decision as to whether or not the operation should proceed in the first place;
(c) Was the surgery performed in a manner that was appropriate for the standards set by the peer group of medical specialists of the same or similar background? Often for example in cases involving gut surgery a doctor may inadvertently cut other parts of the body such as liver, bile duct and was such a risk of damage to other parts of the body reasonable and was it diagnosed immediately and immediate steps taken to rectify the damage. These are questions that need to be looked at in great detail;
(d) There are numerous cases of hospital negligence as to whether the issue of laparoscopic, (keyhole surgery) should have been performed as apposed to open surgery whereby a much larger hole/cut is made and which is more likely to reduce the risk of an ongoing subsequent injury to other body parts due to infection and/or damage to other body parts incidentally to the operation;
(e) Whether or not a patient during the course of surgery was moved appropriately so as to avoid orthopaedic injuries whilst the patient was inert on the operating table for many hours which could lead ultimately to palsy/paralysis to various limbs as a result of nerve damage unrelated to the original surgery;
(f) As regards cosmetic surgery was this non non-urgent surgery performed in an appropriate manner covering breast surgery, rhinoplasty, liposuction to various parts of the body and was it ultimately needed and was the end result better in light of the risks associates with such surgery;
(g) There are very serious cases of medical negligence involving hypoxia to the brain basically meaning a lack of oxygen, and in such cases this causes brain damage. The treatment and professional services of the anaesthetist present must be assessed carefully as to why the incident occurred and the period during which the brain was starved of oxygen. Questions as to whether this incident could have been avoided or managed better to reduce the extent of the damage need to be carefully assessed;
(h) Failure to diagnose heart conditions, meningitis, sarcoma, stroke, orthopaedic issues requiring treatment and various cancers.
(i) Failure by hospital staff to provide adequate post-operative assistance in respect of medication, further investigations and additional surgery required and possibly releasing the patient prematurely.
There is a three year limit within which to bring an action against a negligent medical practitioner and/or hospital in the eastern states of Australia but this can be extended subject to very complex factual situations.
At Gerard Malouf & Partners we are experts in bringing medical negligence claims against doctors, hospitals, physiotherapists, social workers, ambulance officers, chiropractors, general orthopaedic surgeons, heart specialists, general practitioners and the like.