How serious Margaret Horwoods neck injury was was only realized when she was transfered to Brisbane from Bundaberg hospital. Her daughter Tina Peterson is now helping to care for her. Photo: ROB BARICH mar1301a
How serious Margaret Horwoods neck injury was was only realized when she was transfered to Brisbane from Bundaberg hospital. Her daughter Tina Peterson is now helping to care for her. Photo: ROB BARICH mar1301a

Injury survivor in hospital horror

THE family of a spinal injury survivor has called for a ministerial inquiry following allegations her treatment at Bundaberg Hospital almost caused her neck to snap.

Bucca farmer Margaret Horwood was lucky to survive a horrific fall from a truck in October that fractured her vertebrae and left her motionless on the ground.

She was taken to Bundaberg Hospital, fitted with a “halo” and told to sit it out.

But her family knew something was not right and, six weeks later, with the help of Member for Burnett Rob Messenger, she was transferred to the Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital, where her precarious state was fully revealed.

Assessments showed the halo’s pressure was incorrectly set and X-rays indicated the spine was displaced at least 8mm — but Bundaberg Hospital staff failed to notify the farmer of this until she had already been home for the weekend.

“Doctors in Brisbane immediately said that there was no other option than to operate and the halo should never have been fitted,” Mrs Horwood said.

“They said if I got a bump or had a fall, the neck would snap and it would be curtains.”

Two spinal specialists operated on the traumatised farmer soon after, and she returned to the farm on Boxing Day.

Now she sports a huge scar, a titanium-reinforced spine and has restricted movement, but over time she is hoping to resume a normal life.

Wes Horwood, Margaret’s son, said he was pleased his mother was now on the road to recovery, but their experience at Bundaberg Hospital had been “scary and unacceptable”.

“It was not the level of professionalism and service you’d expect from a first-world country,” he said.

He listed sanitary issues, bullying and intimidation by staff and a general lack of communication with the family as other areas of concern.

Mr Messenger said he believed it was not a personnel problem, but rather an institutional one.

“We can’t deny the great care the ambulance staff gave, but it’s a systemic problem (at the hospital) and incredible pressure is being placed on staff,” he said.

“There is a shortage of doctors, nurses, specialists and beds to accommodate our population.”

Mr Messenger said an official letter had been sent to Health Minister Paul Lucas, and he had not yet replied.

Beth Norton, northern cluster manager for the Sunshine Coast-Wide Bay Health Service District, said she could not discuss Mrs Horwood’s case specifically. However, she said staff had made “numerous attempts to meet with the patient and her family” to address any concerns, and these had so far been unsuccessful.

Ms Norton added: “Bundaberg Hospital has a spinal specialist, staff and facilities available to treat spinal injuries that are consistent with a level-two facility.

“The hospital is equipped and staffed to provide a high level of spinal care and treatment for these patients.

“A spinal injury patient’s treatment plan is often developed and implemented in close consultation with specialists at a major tertiary facility.

“Bundaberg Hospital works closely with the Princess Alexandra Hospital spinal team to ensure the best possible standards of care are provided to patients with spinal injuries,” she said.



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