Surgeon claims Sydney hospital is a medical negligence risk

Date: Oct 20, 2019

A Sydney-based surgeon has hit out at the new Northern Beaches Hospital at Frenchs Forest, claiming that the facility is a medical negligence risk for incoming patients. Here we investigate the facts behind this claim.

The Northern Beaches Hospital inquiry

The accusations come as part of a NSW upper house inquiry into the Frenchs Forest-based medical centre, which has been at the centre of a number of operational and administrative crises since its opening in August 2018. The inquiry was primarily opened in August 2019 to investigate the standards of service and staffing in the hospital.

The outspoken surgeon, who works at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, claims the mixed public-private healthcare facility is not equipped to care for people who have suffered a stroke. He added that a lack of suitable equipment or procedural know-how forces patients to transfer 13km to Royal North Shore Hospital, even when rapid treatment is required.

How did Northern Beaches Hospital respond?

Director of Medical Services, Dr Simon Woods, responded by emphasising that the hospital has the technology to perform complex stroke treatments such as thrombolysis. However, Dr Woods also asserted that the hospital, per its contract with NSW Health, is precluded from performing this procedure because stroke treatment is centralised around a limited number of hospitals with special care units.

What are the medical negligence risks?

There are two sides to this narrative, both of which frame Northern Beaches Hospital as increasingly likely to be involved in a medical negligence incident in the future.

On the first side, if doctors choose to treat a stroke patient who comes to the hospital without all the required procedural knowledge, that can put the afflicted person at further risk. Thrombolysis, a blood clot-destroying procedure, helps to improve blood flow and lower the risk of a stroke starving oxygen to the brain – but it’s also a highly complex process. If there is a hospital relatively nearby (Royal North Shore Hospital) with a specialised stroke care unit, patients would be better going there rather than risking treatment at Northern Beaches.

On the other hand, turning away someone suffering from a stroke is also a clear negligence risk. If doctors receive a patient knowing they are running out of time for effective treatment (typically a three-hour window), jeopardising their health by transferring them to another hospital is also a risk.

Every case will have different factors affecting the decision made – but evidently, until this situation changes, Northern Beaches Hospital remains at some risk of making a mistake.

If you have suffered from medical negligence or neglect, contact Gerard Malouf & Partners today. We can help you determine how your claim should progress for a successful outcome.

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