The Sorry State of Healthcare Complaints

08 June 2014
Nearly three years after Baby G was born, I've reached the end of the official complaint procedure, through the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission. (If you've not read my blog before, the TL:DR is that when pregnant with Baby G I requested a caesarean at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital on the grounds of prior abuse, was turned down, agreed to an induction under duress when I was ten days overdue, then when I refused permission to continue with the induction they went ahead anyway and wouldn't let me leave hospital until after two days of trying, my body stubbornly refused to go into labour and they finally carried out the c-section. The full, horrid story is here).

Anyway, the HCCC told me my complaint was being closed because the mental health nurse whom I was referred to denies I ever asked her for a c-section. I pointed out to the HCCC that I had a letter from RPA, dated a few months after Baby G was born, in which the nurse acknowledged that I asked her for a c-section and she refused this without referring me to an obstetrician. The HCCC's response? That the matter was a "communication difficulty", no further action.

So the woman tasked with the care of vulnerable pregnant women at Sydney's busiest maternity hospital failed to refer a sexual assault victim for a c-section at her request, then lied about it. The HCCC has documented evidence of this, and is okay with it. (I thought, well even if the HCCC thought there was nothing wrong in refusing the c-section, surely they'd take action over a nurse blatantly lying to them?)

If you're now thinking, WTF, it gets worse.

Concerned, as she said, about my mental state, one of the HCCC assessors called me to explain the outcome. During that call, she told me that even though no further action was being taken against the nurse or the hospital, it is traumatic just being assessed (imagine telling a rape victim yes, your rapists were acquitted, but it is traumatic just being arrested), that I should have just left the hospital (the hospital refused me permission to leave even though I begged, cried and offered to sign any form stating I was leaving against medical advice) and that well, you got a c-section in the end, didn't you? (They stopped raping you didn't they? You're not dead).

So this is how it ends. I wanted to know the nurse in question had been counselled or reprimanded. I wanted procedures to be changed. I wanted a real apology - not "we are sorry this matter continues to cause you distress" but "We are sorry we did the wrong thing and it will not happen again". I wanted something on the record so that this couldn't happen again in any hospital in NSW. And instead, I faced lies, arse covering and bureaucracy protecting it's own. What is the point of the HCCC?

They dismissed my simple need to not deliver vaginally as "anxiety", and now they fob off my rage and grief by advising I get counselling. I don't need counselling. What I need is justice. I want to know the staff involved have been held accountable and that it cannot happen again. That is all, but I can't go on without it.

I tell this not for sympathy, but to point out both how badly sexual assault victims are treated in hospital, and how vulnerable we all are. If something goes wrong in the health system - a mix up of forms, too much or too little medication, some error, mistake or fuck up - what recourse do we have? I even wrote to the NSW Health Minister, to be told there is nothing they can do to review the decisions of the HCCC. All I can do is post here, hoping that somehow this story gets picked up; maybe publicity can do what bureaucracy has failed. RPA is not a safe place to give birth and the HCCC fails to ensure safety in NSW public hospitals. We shouldn't have to kick and scream for decent health care and honesty from health care staff; it should be a human right.


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