Girl lucky to survive public hospital negligence

They "economized" by repeatedly refusing to order a badly needed brain scan. I go to a private hospital and if I think I need a scan for anything I get one promptly, no argument. Public medicine is dangerous to your health -- JR

A TEENAGE girl almost died from a brain infection after a hospital refused to believe she was critically ill and told her she must be pregnant.

Kate Newton, 16, had to be resuscitated in the emergency department after suffering a heart attack. She was then rushed to an operating theatre, where neurosurgeons bored a hole in her skull to release the fluid that had been killing her.

Kate's memory of her nightmare is vague, but she is furious with Melbourne's Casey Hospital. "When you have headaches, the first thing you think of is your head," she said. "But they tried to tell me I was pregnant, then sent me home with a urine infection. "I had migraines. I could not stand light or noise, and was vomiting non-stop for a week. "If they had admitted me they would have found what I had, but they didn't want to scan me," she said.

Southern Health is investigating its handling of the case.

Kate's mother took her to the hospital on June 3 when her agonising headaches became unbearable. Kate was told she must be pregnant, despite her denials. A test revealed a urinary infection. She was given intravenous fluids and sent home with antibiotics; pleas for a brain scan were refused.

Two days later, her headaches worsening, she returned to hospital and was diagnosed with vertigo. Requests for brain scans were again refused.

On June 9 she was unable to get out of bed, balance or tolerate light. Her mother Anne called the Royal Children's Hospital and was told to call an ambulance immediately.

A brain scan at Dandenong Hospital revealed she was at serious risk, and she was rushed to Monash Medical Centre. On arrival she had a heart attack and had to be resuscitated. "It was horrible," Ms Newton said. "Her sister Ashley rode with her in the ambulance, and saw her die.

"Then the neurosurgeon said 'I have minutes to get her to surgery to save her life. "Even after the first lot of surgery, they weren't confident that she would survive. "And I was so angry and so frustrated that this happened to my daughter, when it could have been prevented."

The Narre Warren South teen spent days in intensive care and had further surgery. She still suffers from short-term memory loss and dizzy spells, and does not have full feeling back in her body.

A Southern Health spokesman said it believed the symptoms Kate first presented with had later changed, and that her care had been appropriate. "We understand the distress of the young woman and her family," he said.

"On 9th June ... her symptoms were quite different [I guess that being at death's door is indeed "different". But is that what needs to happen before you get any interest taken in your condition?], and a CT scan indicated that she should be transferred to Southern Health's Monash Medical Centre, where she was treated immediately by an appropriate specialist team."


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).

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