Shoalhaven health horror

DESPAIR: Allan Searl from Greenwell Point has been told he will have to wait a year-and-a-half for a colonoscopy after his bowel burst.

DESPAIR: Allan Searl from Greenwell Point has been told he will have to wait a year-and-a-half for a colonoscopy after his bowel burst.

Federal politician weighs into health row

MPs ask minister to look into waiting times

Following  emergency bowel surgery Allan Searl’s surgeon requested a colonoscopy in 90 days but Mr Searl has been told he’ll have to wait a year-and-a-half.

Early last year the Greenwell Point father and husband was healthy and relatively fit. Then he woke with severe stomach pains. 

He spent a day in Shoalhaven Hospital undergoing scans and

tests. The next day his intestine burst. He had been suffering from diverticulitis.

He underwent emergency surgery for about seven hours and had 30 centimetres of intestine removed.

He woke from surgery with a colostomy bag attached to his

stomach.

In February he had a second operation to reconnect parts of his bowel, however there were complications.

His surgeon requested a colonoscopy in 90 days.

“I took the letter to the hospital for the colonoscopy request,” Mr Searl said.

“Three days later I received a letter from the hospital telling me the operation would be in November 2015,” Mr Searl said.

“I thought it must have just been a typo and they had written 2015 instead of 2014.

“I phoned the hospital and they said it was no mistake.

“I think the staff was as shocked as me. They transferred me to two other departments but nobody else could help.”

Mr Searl was told there were more than 2000 people on the waiting list for scopes.

“They said there was nothing they could do for me.

“November 2015 was about a year-and-a-half away, nowhere near the 90 days my surgeon wanted to do it in.

“I could understand six months due to a backlog but a year-and-a-half is a bit much.

“From when it started I’m looking at this whole thing taking about three years,” he said.

Mr Searl’s life has been severely affected. His physical and emotional situation is putting pressure on his family life.

He continues to work in a limited capacity.

He and his wife Jodie recently paid for their nine-year-old son to have an operation privately which drained the family’s savings.

He said he could not afford to have his next procedure done privately without selling the family home.

“My wife is worried. She sees the effect this has had on me,” he said.

Mr Searl has had a tough year. He lost his mother to a brain tumour recently.

His wife broke her arm at Christmas and had to be driven to Wollongong Hospital because Shoalhaven no longer has a fracture clinic.

“Some days it really gets to you,” he said.

“My future is unknown, my life is in limbo.

“My son Jarrod just wants his dad to be better. 

“I get out of the shower and he sees this piece of my stomach hanging out of me.

“But I know he still loves me.

“My condition has impacted on my self-esteem and my marriage is suffering. 

“Until I get put back to normal I feel like a burden on the system. 

“My general appearance has changed. I don’t like what I see in the mirror.

“To be told a year and a half to just have a scope is bad enough. Then I have to be booked back in for the operation, an operation that depending on what they find could be lifesaving.”

Mr Searl wanted to make it clear he had the highest respect for hospital staff and community nurses who had helped him so far.

“There needs to be more staff and more money for our hospital,” he said.

“I read the stories of other people waiting and thought I’m not going to sit back and keep reading about it in the paper, I want to put my voice to this.”

MPs ask health minister to look into waiting times

Bowel cancer screening referrals in Shoalhaven will be examined as the hospital struggles to cope with demand.

Kiama MP Gareth Ward and South Coast MP Shelley Hancock made the request on Friday after two Shoalhaven residents featured in the Register in relation to extended waiting times for colonoscopies and endoscopies.

The MPs asked Health Minister Jillian Skinner to request the audit to ensure all patients were being managed appropriately.

“However can I emphasise that anyone experiencing problems with the hospital should feel free to raise them with local state members so we can address any issues with the health district,” Mr Ward said.

“If we don’t know about the problems it’s very difficult to help.”

Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District chief executive Sue Browbank directed patients with concerns relating to their health care to contact their doctor or the hospital in the first instance.

She also said increased screening for bowel diseases had resulted in a steep rise in the number of colonoscopies requested by specialists.

“Shoalhaven routinely does about 100 scopes a month which are scheduled based on clinical urgency determined by the specialist,” she said.

However the specialists of two Shoalhaven patients last week requested procedures in less than 30 days but the hospital’s earliest available time slot was about five months later.

Ms Browbank said scopes at Shoalhaven were undertaken in operating theatres that are also used for elective surgeries.

As a short-term measure the health district signed a contract with a private facility in Milton to perform 150 additional scopes.

So far 62 additional patients have had procedures.

In early April, a request for more resources was approved by the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District.

The approval included $600,000 for new equipment, due on site in a few weeks, and the recruitment of a full-time specialist gastroenterologist to work in the Shoalhaven.

According to a spokesperson for the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District the recruitment was being finalised.

Ms Browbank said she had requested an audit for all endoscopy referrals. 

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