Three years of hell as mum pleas for medical help for son

Patrick Woods

PATRINA Birchall says the Queensland Health system has failed her son.

Sitting at her dining table out at The Palms, Ms Birchall clutches a suitcase overflowing with medical documents.

The mother's face, etched with frustration, appears on the verge of tears.

Ms Birchall's troubles with her son's health began back in 2012 and the toll is showing. Once 104kg, Ms Birchall has plummeted to 54kg on a diet of stress and anxiety.

Her son, Brian, aged 9, has experienced "chronic" difficulties with constipation all his life but in 2012 the trouble became increasingly worrying.

Ms Birchall was living in Hervey Bay at the time and doctors had worked through many of the common causes of constipation.

With no relief, Brian was admitted to hospital for the first time in mid-2012, where he was fitted with a nasal gastric tube and "given a washout" to cleanse his system.

It worked, but it was only a temporary fix.

Feeling she was getting nowhere, Ms Birchall began voicing her concern for her son's health.

She says instead of helping her son, medical staff labelled her "an irate mother".

"I was told I needed to calm down when I was just standing up for my son," Ms Birchall said.

"My attitude was questioned."

The back-and-forth trips to the GP continued before Ms Birchall moved to Gympie and fell within the Nambour health catchment.

In Gympie, Brian's troubles continued and he periodically was hospitalised. In January this year the mother and son attended their first paediatrician appointment in Nambour and were referred to a specialist outpatient hospital in Brisbane.

At that appointment in late January, Brian was again admitted for another washout.

A colonic transit study was organised for the following month and Ms Birchall felt relief.

The feeling was short-lived, however, when five weeks later Ms Birchall was still waiting for results.

After chasing the results, the study revealed Brian had a delay at the lower end of his bowel and his care was being handed to a surgical team.

Then the waiting began for the surgical procedure for a biopsy to identify the problem.

Ms Birchall said she understood her son was on the waiting list as a Category 2 patient, meaning a waiting period of 90 days.

She believes her son should be Category 1 and despite the 90-day waiting period in place since April this year, says Brian has been in limbo "for years" with his health condition.

"He can't live life as a normal boy his age," Ms Birchall said.

"He often misses school and can't do simple things like riding his bike."

Ms Birchall herself has had to take unpaid leave for the last two years while living off a carer's pension.

"This issue was identified three years ago, we are still waiting and Brian is suffering," she said.

Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Services acting chief operating officer Dr Piotr Swierkowski last week responded to Ms Birchall's concerns.

"Elective surgery is planned surgery and the waiting time for a procedure is based on the clinical urgency of the individual patient," he said.

"This determination is made after the patient has been seen by a hospital medical officer.

"Patients with a higher clinical urgency category are scheduled for surgery ahead of patients with a lower clinical urgency.

"Patients with the same clinical category who have been waiting longer will also be given priority."

Dr Swierkowski said Brian was first seen by the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service in April 2014 and classified a Category 2 patient.

"He is still within the recommended waiting time for a Category 2 patient to be seen (90 days)," Dr Swierkowski said.

Dr Swierkowski said the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service had arranged for a treating specialist to review Brian's status on the waiting list.

"Three years and we are still waiting," Ms Birchall said as she now considers the cost of having the procedure done privately.

Gympie Times

Topics:  editors picks hospital

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