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Informing next of kin - what rules?

oceanclub

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I brought my father, who is currently suffering from terminal cancer, to a Dublin hospital last Wednesday (3rd Sept) when he suffered severe vomiting during the night. After 14 hours in A&E, he was admitted to the hospital at 6am the following morning.

Between then and today, I had absolutely no word on what his condition is. I visit every day, but none of the nurses can tell me what exactly is wrong. I have left several phone messages, and messages with the nurses, for the doctor treating him. As of Thursday Sept 11th, none of these had been returned. I'd left my phone number, and the hospitl also had my contact details on record as his nearest next-of-kin.

My father is currently in a poor state; so weak he cannot leave his bed, and also having visual hallucinations. The only information I have gotten from him is that the doctors "want to put me in a home". I have no idea if this is something the doctor _actually_ said, since as mentioned they have not contacted me.

Today (Friday 12th) I ran out of patience after yet another promised phone call from from my father's doctors was not made. So I rang the official complaints department at the hospital and explained the situation.

Half an hour later, I received a phone call from a doctor. He mentioned several symptoms that my father was experiencing. I had to actually dig out of him (he didn't volunteer the information) the fact that my father's life expectancy had been cut from the previous estimate of 1 year minimum to a few weeks. When I stated that I was unhappy that it had taken them a week to inform his next of kin of this fact, considered he only had a few weeks left, the doctor said they had tried to contact me by phone but couldn't get through (I'll come back to this point). When I asked why they couldn't have left a message with the ward nurse for me to contact them, they didn't respond.

Now, I didn't believe his story, so I checked with my mobile provider. They confirmed - and were willing to confirm in writing - that there was no service problem during the week that would have left the hospital unable to contact me. At worst, if I was out of coverage, an unanswered call would have gone to my voice box as is normal.

That afternoon after visiting my father, I visited the complaints department in person and lodged a formal complaint, giving them all the above facts. I'll see what happens next. At the very least, hopefully they put a formal system in place so no other families have to do through situations like this.

Does anyone know what hospitals are currently obliged to do?

P.
 


corelli

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4,472
Are you, in fact, legally his next of kin? If so they hospital are ethically and legally obliged to keep you informed of your fathers condition. What you experienced is not unsual unfortunately.
 

oceanclub

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Hi,

corelli said:
Are you, in fact, legally his next of kin? If so they hospital are ethically and legally obliged to keep you informed of your fathers condition. What you experienced is not unsual unfortunately.
I'm his only offspring, he's a widower, and I'm specified on the hospital's own system as his next-of-kin.

I'm interested in the legal obligation - for me, not going to any length to inform his next-of-kin that he is within weeks of dying borders on negligence. The only previous doctor I had managed to meet (in the A&E) said he simply suspected gastroenteritis.

P.
 

spidermom

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As I understand it nurses are not allowed to give a diagnosis,this is the docs job.awful to hear how you were dealt with.I would try and make contact with the ward sister on your dad's ward and get her to organise the meetings with the doc.staff nurses rotas mean they may not be there every day whereas the nurse manager works most week days.I would make her my point of contact.If you want to speak to a doc ask for the registrar or consultant,no one less senior than that.hope things work out ok
 

Keith-M

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spidermom said:
As I understand it nurses are not allowed to give a diagnosis,this is the docs job.awful to hear how you were dealt with.I would try and make contact with the ward sister on your dad's ward and get her to organise the meetings with the doc.staff nurses rotas mean they may not be there every day whereas the nurse manager works most week days.I would make her my point of contact.If you want to speak to a doc ask for the registrar or consultant,no one less senior than that.hope things work out ok
Correct, the doctor is unlikely to give you you very much information on the phone. You need to organise a one on one meeting through the nursing staff.
 

oceanclub

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spidermom said:
As I understand it nurses are not allowed to give a diagnosis,this is the docs job.
Nowhere did I expect the nurse(s) to do this. I merely left my phone number with the nurses, as repeatedly ringing the doctors and leaving messages over the course of a week didn't produce any results.

I'm not sure you or Keith seem to understand my point, so let me reiterate - if this was merely a run of the mill illness, that's one thing. But if a hospital suddenly realises that a patient is about to die shortly, is it up the patient's next-of-kin to repeatedly make attempts to contact the doctors to find this out?

P.
 

kittyn

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May 11, 2007
Messages
113
spidermom said:
As I understand it nurses are not allowed to give a diagnosis,this is the docs job.awful to hear how you were dealt with.I would try and make contact with the ward sister on your dad's ward and get her to organise the meetings with the doc.staff nurses rotas mean they may not be there every day whereas the nurse manager works most week days.I would make her my point of contact.If you want to speak to a doc ask for the registrar or consultant,no one less senior than that.hope things work out ok
I would gather from oceanclub points that he had made several attempts to speak to a doctor regarding his fathers condition. The least the doctors could have done is return his call to arrange a meeting, I would presume that is not too much to ask when his father is very ill?
 

spidermom

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ask the ward manager to set up a patient conference.sit down with everyone and thrash it out.the nurse may well have passed on the phone messages,the fault surely lies with the medic!was this the same hospital that your dad was diagnosed in and the same set of docs?
 

oceanclub

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spidermom said:
ask the ward manager to set up a patient conference.sit down with everyone and thrash it out.the nurse may well have passed on the phone messages,the fault surely lies with the medic!was this the same hospital that your dad was diagnosed in and the same set of docs?
Same hospital, but he appears to be under another set of doctors right now. During his previous stay (around 2 months ago), he had been under 2 different sets of doctors (one before diagnosis, one after).

P.
 

spidermom

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ask for the second set of docs to take him over. i presume these may have been palliative care team?? maybe not. if this is a "big hospital" ask for the palliative team to take over his care, if his time here has been shortened you NEED these guys to be looking after him.I'm so sorry,it is not an easy time for you.try and make the most of the time you have left, leave the anger till later.treasure the time that you have,you won't get it back,safe journey!
good luck
 

oceanclub

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spidermom said:
ask for the second set of docs to take him over. i presume these may have been palliative care team?? maybe not. if this is a "big hospital" ask for the palliative team to take over his care, if his time here has been shortened you NEED these guys to be looking after him.I'm so sorry,it is not an easy time for you.try and make the most of the time you have left, leave the anger till later.treasure the time that you have,you won't get it back,safe journey!
good luck
Today, I left messages with the doctors yet again - not only are they not in the hospital at the weekends, but the secretary of the main doctor takes Mondays off - which leaves 4 days a week to contact them.

I also rang the community care nurse responsible for my father three times.

I also left 2 phone messages at the hospice which I'm told would be the one he will be sent to (noone has specifically told me, but it deals with his area).

None of my messages were returned.

There are those who say Ireland has a third-world health service. Having spent some time in a hospital in a nominally third-world country, Malaysia, I can say it's quite worse.

P.
 

cyberianpan

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Firstly find out who your father's primary doctor is, primary doctors have a responsibility to next of kin. Nobody else has much if any responsibility to you. When you find out his/her name: Don't just try direct calling, try indirect ... e.g. ring switchboard and ask to be put through to X then say sorry, wrong connection , please put me through to Doctor Y. This worked for me before. Also if you have time go to the hospital in business hours and explain to front desk people that you are on verge of contacting media+TD.

Failing that I hate to say this... but in something like this case: there's apparently been a systemic failure ... so I would consider contacting your local TD.

Normally I'd be very much against clientilism but given time issues I'd suggest to do so.

Also take care of yourself.


cYp
 

spidermom

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feck going through the switchboard,go to the top.the ceo of the hospital or the dirctor of nursing and tell them.you could try ringing either,they can be bleeped through switch OR you could turn up at their door and see how you go!!
 

oceanclub

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spidermom said:
feck going through the switchboard,go to the top.the ceo of the hospital or the dirctor of nursing and tell them.you could try ringing either,they can be bleeped through switch OR you could turn up at their door and see how you go!!
Actually, that's exactly what I did on Friday - I got into the CEO's building (no luck buzzing the door, managed to slip in when when someone was leaving) and went to the CEO's office. Had a meeting there and then with a person there who deals with official complaints. Will ring them today and see what followups have happened.

P.
 

hopi watcher

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oceanclub said:
spidermom said:
feck going through the switchboard,go to the top.the ceo of the hospital or the dirctor of nursing and tell them.you could try ringing either,they can be bleeped through switch OR you could turn up at their door and see how you go!!
Actually, that's exactly what I did on Friday - I got into the CEO's building (no luck buzzing the door, managed to slip in when when someone was leaving) and went to the CEO's office. Had a meeting there and then with a person there who deals with official complaints. Will ring them today and see what followups have happened.

P.
Anyone else smell a rat?
 

oceanclub

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hopi watcher said:
oceanclub said:
spidermom said:
feck going through the switchboard,go to the top.the ceo of the hospital or the dirctor of nursing and tell them.you could try ringing either,they can be bleeped through switch OR you could turn up at their door and see how you go!!
Actually, that's exactly what I did on Friday - I got into the CEO's building (no luck buzzing the door, managed to slip in when when someone was leaving) and went to the CEO's office. Had a meeting there and then with a person there who deals with official complaints. Will ring them today and see what followups have happened.

P.
Anyone else smell a rat?
What do you mean by that exactly?

p.
 

hopi watcher

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oceanclub said:
hopi watcher said:
oceanclub said:
spidermom said:
feck going through the switchboard,go to the top.the ceo of the hospital or the dirctor of nursing and tell them.you could try ringing either,they can be bleeped through switch OR you could turn up at their door and see how you go!!
Actually, that's exactly what I did on Friday - I got into the CEO's building (no luck buzzing the door, managed to slip in when when someone was leaving) and went to the CEO's office. Had a meeting there and then with a person there who deals with official complaints. Will ring them today and see what followups have happened.

P.
Anyone else smell a rat?
What do you mean by that exactly?

p.
It's an incredible story. There is a very strict set of procedures to follow once a terminal diagnoses is made. Could be undermanning is disrupting the smooth running of the service.
 

oceanclub

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hopi watcher said:
oceanclub said:
[quote="hopi watcher":26a9ivdj]
Anyone else smell a rat?
What do you mean by that exactly?

p.
It's an incredible story. There is a very strict set of procedures to follow once a terminal diagnoses is made. Could be undermanning is disrupting the smooth running of the service.[/quote:26a9ivdj]

So you think I'm lying (that is what the phrase "to smell a rat" means)?

P.
 

hopi watcher

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Messages
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oceanclub said:
hopi watcher said:
oceanclub said:
[quote="hopi watcher":1kq6ps3e]Anyone else smell a rat?
What do you mean by that exactly?

p.
It's an incredible story. There is a very strict set of procedures to follow once a terminal diagnoses is made. Could be undermanning is disrupting the smooth running of the service.
So you think I'm lying (that is what the phrase "to smell a rat" means)?

P.[/quote:1kq6ps3e]

I think it is an incredible story and you should go to one of the quality papers and seek to have it highlighted. There is little point in posting here about it. You should also consider going to Hawkins House.
 

TheGMB

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Joined
Oct 13, 2013
Messages
4,205
I brought my father, who is currently suffering from terminal cancer, to a Dublin hospital last Wednesday (3rd Sept) when he suffered severe vomiting during the night. After 14 hours in A&E, he was admitted to the hospital at 6am the following morning.

Between then and today, I had absolutely no word on what his condition is. I visit every day, but none of the nurses can tell me what exactly is wrong. I have left several phone messages, and messages with the nurses, for the doctor treating him. As of Thursday Sept 11th, none of these had been returned. I'd left my phone number, and the hospitl also had my contact details on record as his nearest next-of-kin.

My father is currently in a poor state; so weak he cannot leave his bed, and also having visual hallucinations. The only information I have gotten from him is that the doctors "want to put me in a home". I have no idea if this is something the doctor _actually_ said, since as mentioned they have not contacted me.

Today (Friday 12th) I ran out of patience after yet another promised phone call from from my father's doctors was not made. So I rang the official complaints department at the hospital and explained the situation.

Half an hour later, I received a phone call from a doctor. He mentioned several symptoms that my father was experiencing. I had to actually dig out of him (he didn't volunteer the information) the fact that my father's life expectancy had been cut from the previous estimate of 1 year minimum to a few weeks. When I stated that I was unhappy that it had taken them a week to inform his next of kin of this fact, considered he only had a few weeks left, the doctor said they had tried to contact me by phone but couldn't get through (I'll come back to this point). When I asked why they couldn't have left a message with the ward nurse for me to contact them, they didn't respond.

Now, I didn't believe his story, so I checked with my mobile provider. They confirmed - and were willing to confirm in writing - that there was no service problem during the week that would have left the hospital unable to contact me. At worst, if I was out of coverage, an unanswered call would have gone to my voice box as is normal.

That afternoon after visiting my father, I visited the complaints department in person and lodged a formal complaint, giving them all the above facts. I'll see what happens next. At the very least, hopefully they put a formal system in place so no other families have to do through situations like this.

Does anyone know what hospitals are currently obliged to do?

P.
I'm in a similar situation. Does anyone have any info?
 


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