Mum’s long wait for doc
500 days and counting to see specialist
CANNONVALE mum-of-two Danielle McAlpine has waited more than 500 days to see an ear, nose and throat specialist for two operations to help relieve chronic pain and health problems.
Mrs McAlpine and her husband Peter feel “helpless” after being told there is nothing that can be done to reduce her wait time, although the target wait time for a Category 3 ENT patient is 12 months.
The average wait time for the mum’s category at Mackay Hospital is 426 days.
After discovering the more urgent Category 1 patients were being seen, but the Category 2 and 3 patient lists were not reducing, Mrs McAlpine has booked in to have the first surgery done privately in Townsville at a cost of nearly $4000.
She also paid $6000 last year for her then four-year-old son Edward to be operated on in the private health system as he was also on a long wait list.
“He needed his tonsils and adenoids taken out and he needed grommets. I was keeping his chin up at night so he could breathe, so I could not have left him on that wait list. It was crazy.”
Mrs McAlpine said she was originally in line for the surgeries to be done at the Townsville Hospital, but last year the case load was transferred to Mackay.
“I need my tonsils out, and the other operation is for my sinuses.
“It affects your sleep. There’s not any time now where I don’t have trouble with my tonsils.”
Now 32, she said she had been dealing with the constant pain and discomfort as well as recurring tonsillitis for the past three to four years.
“I get vertigo if I go over hills or fly. One of my passions is scuba diving, which I can no longer do due to the pressure.
“Due to the pain, it stops me from doing things on a daily basis. And, when you’re sick all the time, you’re always run down.
“There was a time that I stopped taking antibiotics because I had been on them for over a year.”
Mrs McAlpine said her only options were to pay for the second surgery or move to another hospital.
“I wanted to get referred to Brisbane, but I would go back to day one of the wait list. I’ve asked and they just can’t help me.”
Mrs McAlpine said if more funding was provided for ENT specialists to work extra days in the Mackay area, the load could be reduced.
After making an official complaint to the Office of the Health Ombudsman, she was told that Category 2 patients had not started
being treated, and patients would continue to be added to wait lists.
She was told to expect an extended wait, on which no timeframe could be given, and that there were about 70 patients ahead of her on the Category 3 list, and 104 Category 2 patients.
The letter stated that the times it took a patient to be seen would increase if the service demand was outstripping supply – “which is the current situation” – and that the situation arose when the list was transferred from Townsville to Mackay.
Mackay HHS chief executive Jo Whitehead said there was a high demand for public ENT services in the Mackay Hospital and Health Service, and the hospital introduced a visiting ENT service in late-2016 to meet demand.
Ms Whitehead said Mackay had three days of specialist outpatient appointments and three days of ENT surgery each month.
“Before this, every public
I wanted to get referred to Brisbane, but I would go back to day one of the wait list. I’ve asked and they just can’t help me.
patient requiring ENT specialist consultation and surgery travelled to Townsville,” she said.
Some Category 2 and 3 patients were waiting longer than the recommended time, she said.
“We are currently reviewing the service offered and what can be done to better manage demand in the future.
“Each month we see a total of about 60 patients – adult and pediatric – and this is a combination of new patients and review appointments.”
LONG WAIT: Peter, Ellie, Edward and Danielle McAlpine, of Cannonvale. Danielle has waited more than 500 days to see an ENT specialist.