A Nelson Bay family left 'embarrassed and distressed' by the actions of a medical practitioner at the Tomaree Community Hospital last week has received an apology from the head of Hunter Health.
Steve Lingard, who has motor neurone disease (MND) and is confined to a wheelchair requiring round the clock care, was transported to the hospital in an ambulance with his carer on earlier this month "in extreme pain with some complications".
Steve's wife Jacki Lingard said it was her husband's second trip to the hospital in three days and that he was seen by the same doctor on both occasions.
"Steve was greeted by the doctor with the words 'you back again'," Mrs Lingard said.
"He then proceeded to state that the complications were normal and next time don't come to the [community hospital], call palliative care."
Ms Lingard's post about the incident on social media prompted a huge response from Tomaree residents and an immediate apology from Jonathan Holt, general manager, Community and Aged Care Services, Greater Newcastle Sector Hunter New England Local Health District.
By Friday evening, Ms Lingard says she "had three lengthy conversations with [Mr Holt]', adding that "there is amazing staff at the [community hospital] and I have informed Hunter Health of the individuals who do show care and empathy".
"My intention in going public was not to be critical of the staff, but rather to highlight the poor bedside manner of one individual, who showed no interest and seemed to be annoyed by the fact Steve was there," Mrs Lingard said.
In his response to wide ranging questions put by the Examiner, Mr Holt said the aim of Hunter New England Local Health District was to provide the best possible experience and care to all patients, families and visitors.
"We acknowledge that this patient and his family had a difficult experience and have contacted them to apologise and to ensure they have the appropriate supports for ongoing care," Mr Holt said.
"The patient has a comprehensive care plan in place, and follow-up arrangements have been made with the palliative care team, who will provide further support to the patient at home."
Mr Holt said that medical staffing at Tomaree Community Hospital is provided under a contract arrangement.
"All doctors working at the hospital are assessed and credentialed by Hunter New England Health in line with NSW Health requirements to ensure they have the appropriate qualifications, skills and experience to work in our services," he said.
"While the vast majority of our patients have a positive experience with our service, we use feedback from patients and their families to continually improve the way we provide care to our community.
"Almost $8 million is being invested in the HealthOne development at Tomaree. The project will deliver services tailored to residents of the Tomaree Peninsula including general practice, community nursing and allied health, mental health, child and family health, pathology, dental and medical imaging."