Hospital folly - Woman released despite four broken ribs after traffic accident
Hours after the motor vehicle she was driving in was involved in a major accident, Althea Brown* was cleared to go home by a doctor at the Falmouth Public General Hospital, but she was convinced that all was not well.
Two days later, Brown visited a doctor at a private facility, who discovered that she had been discharged from the Trelawny-based hospital with broken ribs suffered in the motor vehicle collision.
"I went home and I was still in pain. I could not move. I was even trying to sit up but I could not. I just could lay flat and when I moved, I felt things moving. Something was moving on the inside and I heard liquid," Brown told The Sunday Gleaner.
She was injured in an early-morning accident one Saturday in January, when the taxi she was travelling in crashed into the back of a truck on her way to Falmouth.
According to Brown, the nurses and doctors at the hospital treated her cuts and bruises, but she was told that she would need to wait a few hours before an X-ray could be conducted. The X-ray was finally done some time after midday.
"When I came out of the X-ray room after one hour, the man just looked at the thing for like one minute and told me he is not seeing anything. I could go home," said Brown, who was not satisfied.
"The pain was so intense that I could not take it. I went back to a private doctor on Monday morning, and when I went in and he looked at me and checked, he said 'it feels like you have a fractured rib' and asked, 'did you do an X-ray', and I said yes.
"I told him what the doctor said and he said, 'no, it feels like you have fractured something, so you need to do another X-ray'," recalled Brown.
She said she went back to the Falmouth Hospital as her doctor had instructed. The person who conducted the X-ray this time around had not been there the Saturday, and he confirmed that her ribs were broken.
"He said, 'Ms Brown, I am so sorry, you have four broken ribs. I do not know why the doctor told you that your ribs were not broken, but your ribs are broken. What should have happened is that you should not have been sent home, you should have been kept overnight and another X-ray done because you could have injured your lungs and you could have died'," added Brown.
She was taken back to the doctor who had initially looked at her X-ray and he, too, apologised.
According to Brown, her private doctor was upset about the error as he said it was not the first he was seeing that day.
"There was another lady with a broken hand and they sent her out saying nothing was broken. The week before he had examples of that as well," claimed Brown.
Efforts to contact Brown's doctor have so far been unsuccessful, but chairman of the board of the Falmouth Public General Hospital, Kenneth Grant, said he has not received any formal complaints from persons who were dissatisfied with the treatment they received at the facility.
"I can't say that there is anything official on record to say that we have been having complaints like that," said Grant, even as he indicated that a police officer had told him that he was displeased with the treatment he received at the public facility.
"He (the police officer) was discharged and sent home, but he ended up ... at another health facility in Manchester, and he told me that the doctors said it was some form of negligence on the part of Falmouth why he had to come back to that hospital because the wound was worse than he was told.
"He was eventually transferred to overseas through the assistance of the Police Federation, and it ended up that they had to amputate his legs," added Grant.
He said that matter was referred to the chief executive officer at the hospital.
"They did some checks with the doctors who saw the police officer and they said that they followed through and did everything that was possible, and applied the treatment that they thought was necessary for him," said Grant.
The level of care at the Falmouth Hospital was questioned recently by persons connected to a man who died after being taken to its Accident and Emergency Ward Department following a motor vehicle accident.
They stoned the facility as they accused the staff of not doing enough to save the man's life. But Grant said the hospital's staff did all they could.
"The doctors told me that they did every single thing. They started to see the patient immediately as he came to the hospital and they did every single thing, and I believe them because I have received a lot of commendation from persons who came to Falmouth," said Grant.
He said that while he sympathises with the family, he is confident that nothing more could have been done.
"Everybody expect that from you reach the hospital your life is to be saved, but sometimes you are so critically wounded that there is nothing really that they can do," added Grant.
* Name changed on request.