Mum's anger at health care system

A DISTRAUGHT young mum claims a doctor at Coffs Harbour Base Hospital did not know how to dress her screaming baby’s burnt hands – after waiting three hours for treatment.

Rebecca Chapman’s nine month old daughter Emme put both hands on a hot oven around 4:30pm last Thursday and Ms Chapman says her daughter “passed out” from screaming before she was able to get any serious attention.

Then, stunningly, a doctor told her he would email photos to Sydney for advice the following day.

“After running her hands under the cold water and speaking to the emergency line, my sister and I rushed my baby over to the emergency department,” Ms Chapman said.

Soon after she arrived, nurses gave her a bowl of water to soak the burns in.

“By this time Emme’s hands had all swelled up and large blisters covered both her hands but we still waited in emergency. My child was screaming and crying and shaking. The doctor said the wounds were superficial but painful.”

Painful appeared to be an understatement with Emme being left waiting long enough to scream to the point of passing out before seeing the doctor.

The doctor couldn’t give the exhausted infant any pain medication other than Nurofen as there were no treatment rooms available for her to be monitored in.

“When we asked him if the Nurofen would help with the pain, his answer was ‘probably not’,” said Ms Chapman.

“When the doctor eventually came back, he told us he had been on the phone to Westmead Children’s Hospital asking for advice on how to dress the wounds.

“I was stunned and appalled to realise he didn’t know how to dress my daughter’s hands. Come 7pm he came back in and took photographs of the wounds saying he would email them to Westmead but he probably wouldn’t get around to it until ‘sometime tomorrow morning’.

“He then said he would now dress her wounds and come back with some “pain stop’ for pain relief. We didn’t see him again. At 8pm a nurse came in and dressed Emme’s wounds which took five minutes. They were simply wrapped in a medicated mesh and then wrapped in bandages.

“We were sent home without speaking to the doctor for homecare advice and without the medication.”

Ms Chapman is still very angry about the treatment her daughter received.

“They didn’t care about Emme,” she said.

The young mum is supposed to visit the hospital again today to have Emme’s dressings changed but she will not be going.

She has made an appointment with her GP instead.

“What I would like to know is how the Coffs Harbour Health Campus can justify leaving a nine month-old baby girl with burn wounds on her hands to sit in a room not even set up to deal with her pain relief, for three hours, only administering Nurofen and a bowl of cold water for her hands to rest in,” said Ms Chapman.

No-one from the Coffs Harbour Base Hospital was available for comment yesterday.

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