Maternity ward gives misdiagnoses
TWO women who suffered life-threatening ectopic pregnancies have spoken out about their nightmare experiences at Bundaberg Hospital's maternity unit, in the hope no other woman will have to suffer the same trauma.
Both women collapsed after being discharged from the hospital with wrong diagnoses.
Member for Burnett Rob Messenger has used their plight, and those of other women who have come forward, to call for an independent inquiry into “substandard and/or negligent medical treatment” at the unit.
An Agnes Water woman, who spoke anonymously to the NewsMail, fought back tears as she told how she first knew something was wrong in December last year, when she suffered abdominal pain and keeled over at work.
After seeing her doctor, she was taken to Bundaberg Hospital.
“The lady that did the ultrasound said it definitely was an ectopic pregnancy,” she said.
“She said there was so much blood.”
The woman was given leave and put in a hotel in Bundaberg until the next day, when she went back for more tests – and was told to go home.
She later found out she was discharged because it was believed she had a cyst.
But a few days later she collapsed again and was taken back to Bundaberg Hospital, where she was put in the day ward with a group of men.
“There was blood all through my pelvis and I was told that I would definitely have to have surgery,” the woman said.
“I was all dressed to go to surgery and the anaesthetist came out to talk to me.
“Then a different doctor came out and said they thought they would leave it and that I would stay overnight again.”
She was discharged and sent home a second time, after being told she had had a miscarriage and that the pain she was suffering was normal.
“I had never been in this much pain before, but I thought I just had to endure it,” she said.
Four days later, she collapsed a third time.
Due to the flooding in the region, this time she was taken to Gladstone.
“The lady who did my ultrasound couldn't understand how they had missed it (the ectopic pregnancy),” she said.
She said in Gladstone, she only saw one doctor, while in Bundaberg she “couldn't count” the number of doctors she had seen.
“There were all these interpretations of all these different people,” she said.
She has now had mediation with the hospital to get some answers and has now seen all her ultrasound reports, which clearly state she had an ectopic pregnancy.
“I don't understand how they could see that (the ultrasound results) and not do anything,” she said.
The woman said the incident had destroyed her faith in the hospital and that she would “never go back”.
“I have lost my faith in everything. We have lost so much out of this, not only our baby, but everything,” she said.
“I could have died. I don't want this to happen to anyone else.”
A Bundaberg woman is now considering legal action, after an unsatisfactory result from the Health Quality and Complaints Commission (HQCC).
Today she is just weeks away from giving birth to her first child, having had to resort to two rounds of IVF after both her tubes were removed in a surgery that could have been a lot less severe.
She is now trying not to focus on her fear of having to give birth at Bundaberg Hospital.
In January 2009, the woman went to Bundaberg Hospital experiencing the symptoms of what she thought was an ectopic pregnancy.
This was her fifth pregnancy – she had suffered three miscarriages and one ectopic pregnancy previously.
“They did blood tests and said I just had gastro from some dodgy chicken,” she said.
“We asked for an ultrasound, but they said it was unavailable.”
A few days later, a friend found the woman passed out in her home. She was taken to her GP, who ordered an ultrasound at the Mater Hospital. She was told to immediately go back to her GP for the results.
“The GP said there was bad news and I had a ruptured ectopic pregnancy.
He said there was no time for an ambulance and for my husband to get me to the hospital,” she said.
But after arriving at emergency, she waited a further four to five hours before being treated. An independent report into her care later found she had been wrongly categorised upon arrival.
“They put me in the maternity ward, next to the nursery, with the women in labour and crying babies,” she said
“That was very upsetting. At night I was crying and a nurse came and told me to try to keep it down because I was disturbing the other mothers.
“I discharged myself. I was disgusted at the treatment I got.”
The woman had two independent reports done into her case, which she sent to the HQCC.
Among the findings was that due to her history, ectopic pregnancy should have been ruled out conclusively and that due to the severity of the rupture and the blood in her pelvis, it appeared her left tube was bleeding, so it was removed.
But it was the right tube that had ruptured, and it also had to be removed, leaving her unable to conceive naturally.
“I still have questions that I want answered,” she said.
What is ectopic pregnancy?
Ectopic means “in the wrong place”, so an ectopic pregnancy is one that develops outside the uterus (where pregnancy usually occurs).
It happens when a fertilised egg fails to implant in the endometrial tissues of the uterine cavity and instead leaves the uterus and implants at another site, and is almost always an unviable pregnancy.
The most common sites for such pregnancies are the fallopian tubes (also known as a tubal pregnancy); ovary; and abdominal cavity (i.e. the area around the abdomen including the liver and spleen).
Left untreated, ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening condition, and is a leading cause of early pregnancy death in Australia.
It is estimated that about 2% of all pregnancies are ectopic.