Health system failing the elderly, says widow

Jan Turner and the correspondence regarding the death of her husband Les. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK
Jan Turner and the correspondence regarding the death of her husband Les. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

A LAVINGTON woman is seeking an inquest into the death of her husband at the Albury hospital, believing increased pressure on the health system is failing patients.

Jan Turner, 67, fears the Border’s elderly are bearing the brunt of the growing demands on hospitals and medical professionals.

Mrs Turner’s husband Les, 73, died in July 2012, four days after he first went to Albury hospital’s emergency department with a foot infection but was not admitted for treatment.

The Turners were told there was a bed shortage and they should return the next day to see a specialist.

However his infection, which had started a month earlier, had developed into sepsis, which led to multiple organ failure and his death

Mrs Turner lodged a complaint with the Health Care Complaints Commission in October 2012; a response in November 2012 and seen by The Border Mail said Mr Turner “should not have been discharged” and “there was no bed shortage”.

There was also an acknowledgment that doctors had not been told of Mr Turner’s abnormal blood test results.

The matter was referred to the Medical Council of NSW and Mrs Turner was advised two doctors involved in her husband’s treatment — one of whom was in a locum position — were under investigation.

The Medical Council could not confirm the status of the investigations to The Border Mail as it was “unable to discuss individual cases”.

Albury Wodonga Health chief executive Stuart Spring said a detailed internal investigation confirmed Mr Turner should have been admitted to hospital when he first presented.

He agreed both Albury and Wodonga emergency departments were under “continuing pressure”, with an increase in attendances by severely ill patients.

“There is no doubt the harder we’re working the more vigilant we have to be,” he said.

Mrs Turner has now resolved to write to the coroner’s office to request an inquest, hoping changes will come from any recommendations made.

She has been a professional carer for 23 years and now cares for her 91-year-old father.

Mrs Turner said she believed health services on the Border had been declining for the past decade.

“I can see what’s happening now and what’s happening to me and I don’t like it,” she said.