Paul, forced to walk home from hospital at 2am, told it won’t happen again

Step 4 - chest pains at Glebe Lagoon. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Paul had to stop after chest pains returned near Glebe Lagoon in Bega. Photo: Ian Campbell.

A Bega man who was told to walk home from South East Regional Hospital (SERH) at 2am says his confidence in the local health service has improved.

Paul’s outrageous story drew a strong response from the About Regional community when it was first published in late November.

He had already made an official complaint about his shoddy treatment but was yet to receive an explanation or apology. In the days that followed the publication of Paul’s story, he was invited to a meeting with new hospital chief, Wendy Hubbard.

“She apologised for what had happened and told me new systems were in place to stop it happening again,” Paul says.

Paul is not his real name. In sharing his story Paul didn’t want to embarrass friends and clients that work at the new facility and asked to remain anonymous. He did however want to see change and a better standard of care for the community that has been his home for 20 years.

It seems he has achieved that.

It opens Friday, December 15, the Carers and Relatives Accommodation at South East Regional Hospital in Bega. Photo: Ian Campbell
It opens Friday, December 15, the Carers and Relatives Accommodation at South East Regional Hospital in Bega. Photo: Ian Campbell

Paul’s story starts with chest pains after dinner one Sunday evening in early September, after a day of feeling funny he and his partner called for an ambulance.

After five hours in care, Paul was told he hadn’t had a heart attack but was suffering from angina. By that stage, the hospital clock was saying 1:30 am and with a diagnosis in hand, Paul was advised to see his GP as soon as possible.

“They [then] gave me a blanket and said I’d have to walk home,” Paul explains.

Paul arrived at the hospital with his partner five hours earlier via ambulance, they had no car, no way of getting home.

“We have lots of friends, but it was two o’clock in the morning, we didn’t want to impose on people,” he says.

No other option was offered – no bed, no ride home, just a blanket to guard against the early spring chill.

“I did say – I can’t walk home with angina,” Paul says.

During the four-kilometre walk home, Paul had to stop on the path at Glebe Lagoon when the chest pains returned.

Thankfully he made it home and was able to see his doctor on the Wednesday.

South East Regional Hospital
South East Regional Hospital. Photo: SNSWLHD

When I initially published Paul’s story the Health Service pointed to the lack of a taxi service in Bega as being the issue.

“The problem is not that the hospital doesn’t provide transport, but rather that there is only one taxi in Bega and they won’t provide service after hours,” the NSW Health Transport Travel Support Group said.

While accepting that transport is an issue across South East NSW, the community reaction to Paul’s story and the heartless government response has prompted a rethink from the Health Service, with many people reporting similar tales of being stranded by a system that seemed to not care or understand life in a country setting.

In a subsequent statement to About Regional, a spokesperson for Southern NSW Local Health District confirmed that in the future patients will be offered an overnight stay in the hospital to help manage transport issues.

“To avoid similar incidents arising in the future Emergency Department (ED) staff will be able to raise potential patient transport issues with the After Hours Nurse Manager,” a Health spokesperson said.

“[Staff] will talk to the patient and consider any options, including an offer to stay overnight.”

Furthermore, the spokesperson said, “On December 15 the SERH on-site Carers and Relatives Accommodation will be opened, which will provide a further option for people in a similar situation.”

Paul says he feels vindicated and trusts that this won’t happen again.

“I appreciated the apology Wendy offered and I got a sense she is working to make things better,” Paul says.

“It seems there was a lack of understanding by agency and locum staff on duty the night I arrived.”

Under new District Cheif Executive, Andrew Newton further operational and cultural changes have been flagged inline with the review initiated by the NSW Health Minister.

Confidence in the sparkling new facility and some of its staff has been shattered on the back of a raft of issues since the hospitals opening in early 2016.

A few finishing touches before Friday's grand opening of the Careers and Relatives Accommodation. Photo: Ian Campbell
A few finishing touches before Friday’s grand opening of the Careers and Relatives Accommodation. Photo: Ian Campbell

The Carers Accommodation that opens on Friday is perhaps an opportunity to reinvigorate people’s trust.

Like so many things, the construction of this building has been driven by community fundraising coordinated by Bega Valley service clubs but embraced by people and organistaions around South East NSW, as well as State and Federal Governments and big business.

An 18-bed facility for carers is the full vision, six motel style rooms with their own ensuite will open on Friday representing stages one and two.

The community is invited to look through the new building between 2 and 5pm.

Paul is not surprised that the community has stepped up the way it has around his story or how it has rallied around the need to build carers and relative accommodation for a hospital that services communities from Batemans Bay to Jindabyne to Mallacoota.

He hangs on to the blanket he was given on that cold September night as a reminder that systems and bureaucracy are meant to serve people.

*About Regional content happens because of the financial contributions of members, thank you to Snowy Monaro Regional Council, Geoff Berry, Tania Ward, Jill Howell and Max Wilson, Ingrid Mitchell and Deb Nave, Therese and Denis Wheatley, Bronnie Taylor, Fiona Firth, and Scott Halfpenny.

Coasties farewell Tassie ahead of Karl Posselt Cup weekend

Back row - Craig Howker (Manager), Ruben Yee, Jacob Shields, Koby Cowen, Will Roberts, Gabriel Cross, Woti Fastigata, Toby Willington (Coach). Front row – Luke Shaw, Oscar Campbell, Taj Warren, Archer White, Jez Carrett, Isaac Willington, Zac Jolly, Liam Kelly.
Back row – Craig Howker (Manager), Ruben Yee, Jacob Shields, Koby Cowen, Will Roberts, Gabriel Cross, Woti Fastigata, Toby Willington (Coach). Front row – Luke Shaw, Oscar Campbell, Taj Warren, Archer White, Jez Carrett, Isaac Willington, Zac Jolly, Liam Kelly.

Months of training and fundraising have come together for fourteen lads from the Bega Valley and Eastern Victoria competing in the Launceston Soccer Tournament last weekend (Sept 22,23,24) in Tasmania.

The group of thirteen-year olds came from Bega, Merimbula, Eden, and Mallacoota, playing in the sky-blue jersey of the Far South Coast Soccer Association (FSCSA).

It’s been somewhat of a tradition for the local association who have sent an under 13’s rep side to the far-flung competition for over 20 years, however this year is the last for the time being.

Coach Toby Willington was pleased with his team’s efforts.

“It was great for the boys to come up against some tough competition, they learned lots that will benefit them and they handed out a few lessons of their own,” Toby said.

“They can be very proud to come away with two wins from four starts.”

The ‘Coasties’ finished second in their pool and came up against the Hills Hawkes from Sydney in the playoff for third spot.

The Tassie rain and wind was coming in sideways at kick-off, with the Coasties first to score. An evenly contested match played out with the Sydneysiders two ahead early in the second half.

The Hawkes managed to hold off a spirited charge late in the game to down the Coasties 4 – 3.

“These boys love their soccer and have had a ball playing in such a big competition,” Toby said.

Toby who was part of the winning 2012 Under 13’s Coasties side in Tassie interrupted his HSC preparations at Bega High to coach the side.

The Launceston Tournament attracts teams from New South Wales, Victoria and across the Apple Isle.

“In our 27th year we’ve attracted a record number of entries, which augurs well for the future of our beloved sport,” Dale Rigby, President of the Northern Tasmanian Junior Soccer Association said.

The trip south was only made possible through the generosity of the local community who supported the team’s fundraising efforts.

“The boys want to thank everyone who bought a raffle ticket or made a donation, we couldn’t have done this without you,” Will Roberts, Coasties Captain said.

The connection many local families have with ‘The Tassie Trip’ was evident during the team’s fundraising, with mums, dads, nannas, and grandpas buying tickets in 2017 because in years gone past it had been their kids on the street selling raffle tickets or chocolates.

FSCSA Rep Convenor and Under 13’s Manager, Craig Howker said it has been a big decision not to go to Tassie in 2018.

“Interest in soccer across the Bega Valley is growing, and we want to support more girls and boys playing at that higher level,” Craig said.

“The fundraising will continue, but we’ll be investing that money in better equipment and training, and creating more opportunities for teams from under 12 to Seniors to represent our region.

“We have some great local talent, and the Association is keen to back these kids and see them succeed,” he said.

The Coasties, first to the ball against the Hills Hawkes from Sydney.
The Coasties, first to the ball against the Hills Hawkes from Sydney.

The Under 13’s Coasties will return home in time to complete in the Karl Posselt (KP) Cup at Merimbula’s Berrambool Oval this coming weekend (Sept 29, 30 & Oct 1).

Now in its ninth year, the KP Cup is geared towards under 12’s and under 13’s boys and girls, and usually attracts around 30 teams from NSW, Victoria, and Tasmania.

The tournament recognises the outstanding contribution of Karl Posselt to the development of youth soccer not only at the Merimbula Grasshoppers, but also with Football NSW.

“The KP Cup is a huge effort for the local soccer community, but so worthwhile, thank you to all those helping out this weekend,” Craig said.

Glowing oceans and starry skies: Bioluminescence at Mallacoota

Sailing at Mallacoota. By Kate Burke
Sailing at Mallacoota. By Kate Burke

Warm summer nights, beach dreaming, magical skinny-dips in sparkling coastal lakes…and with every kick and splash, the dark water around us lights up like magic.

Many of us describe it as “phosphorescence”, but it is something more exciting than a mere glow – it is bioluminescence, evidence of tiny marine creatures and their remarkable way of shining a light on their predators.

Tonight, my man Pete and I are counting our lucky stars (figuratively – there are millions visible) as we leave the kids with Pete’s parents and head out in our little Investigator trailer sailer to spend the night by ourselves on Mallacoota Inlet.

Motoring through the narrow passage from Mallacoota Wharf to the main lake, red port markers blink to our left, green to our right, and up ahead the bright white beacon marking the channel entrance.

As we move away from the town, a waxing sliver moon sets behind the warm lights that glow from living-rooms and verandahs to the west.

The lake darkens, and as we set our sails and switch off the motor we are somehow sailing by the light of Venus and the Milky Way.

Even the tiniest light source suddenly seems alive, powerful, attractive.

The sky and the storms out on the far horizon are also alive. So alive that as we gaze at them as our keel runs aground on soft lake mud and we’re suddenly without steering. So alive that it happens again about ten minutes later. So alive that it takes us a good while to notice the bright green streams of water stretching out behind the rudder and fanning out like wings from the bow of the boat.

Bioluminescence at the Gippsland Lakes. By Phil Hart
Bioluminescence at the Gippsland Lakes. By Phil Hart

Pete and I tied our boat up to a jetty in ‘The Narrows’. I dropped a rock in the water. Light spattered like sparks – at first on the surface, but then settling into a gentle twinkling that revealed a sparkle all through the water.

Stars twinkled above, and the lake was its own galaxy of billions of lights, off and on, tiny.

Then we saw the hive of fish activity along the shoreline. Flickering of tails, each movement trailing a shower of light. Splats and runnels of luminescence. All movements, the paths of all living lake life, traced in shining light.

Tiny plankton known as dinoflagellates, the food of many whales, emit light – not phosphorescence but rather bioluminescence – in a clever play, a kind of lure.

But why draw attention to yourself, little plankton?  Why be a target?

It seems that it’s about a chain of events. Tiny plankton are hunted by predators such as crustaceans, and crustaceans are hunted by larger creatures such as big fish.

When crustaceans move to attack plankton, the plankton light up – “over here, over here!” – larger predators are attracted by the commotion and make a good feast of the crustaceans, effectively taking care of the plankton’s predators.

Dinoflagellates feed on algae and other plankton, and their populations can grow when there are high nutrient levels in coastal waters.

Bioluminescence is not limited to tiny organisms;  in fact, there are bioluminescent species of sharksAnd bioluminescence can hide some species instead of attracting attention (as described in the wonderful kids’ science book The Squid, the Vibrio & The Moon).

According to Ferris Jabr of Hakai Magazine, bioluminescent crustaceans called ostracods were dried for storage by Japanese navy personnel during the Second World War, then made into a paste and used as a covert light source for reading maps.

But here at Mallacoota, it’s the tiny plankton who are shining a light on their predators.

Pretty darn cool, sadly too cool for a midnight swim. Maybe another time.

All the same, Mallacoota Inlet is a stunning place to wake up.