A Mandurah man’s health deteriorated after he was sent home twice from Peel Health Campus, only later to discover at Fiona Stanley Hospital that he had blood cancer.
Reginald Whiu, 73, from Greenfields, said he was diagnosed with degeneration of the spine at a GP early last year, after complaining of back pain.
Reginald’s wife, Rosemarie Whiu, said her husband’s pain worsened and he became constipated, so he was taken by ambulance to the Peel Health Campus emergency department on July 21, 2017.
At this point, Reginald had not passed a stool for about two weeks. “I remember going in there, and he was bent over in so much pain,” Rosemarie said.
Reginald was admitted to the hospital for three days and received blood tests and an ultrasound, she said.
He was discharged by a doctor who advised Reginald to drink water and laxatives for his constipation, take pain relief medication and follow up with his GP in one week.
“I said to the doctor that it must be something more than just constipation,” Rosemarie said.
Two days later, Reginald was admitted to Peel Health Campus again, but for five days this time.
“He was released again, the same way as the first time. They said we could manage the pain at home between GP appointments,” Rosemarie said.
Upon being released, the pain worsened and Reginald’s condition deteriorated, she said.
He experienced pain radiating in his thorax and upper abdomen, a decreased sensation in his right leg and he started to use a walking frame.
He could have died...and to see everything he went through. It was really badRosemarie Whiu
“He was on the verge of taking an overdose of pills...that’s how much pain he was in,” Rosemarie said.
“I remember he said to me: ‘No man should have to go through this amount of pain’.”
Five days later, Reginald’s sister flew from New Zealand to say goodbye to her brother because the family feared he was going to die.
“She thought she was never going to see him again,” Rosemarie said.
Later that day, on August 5, 2017, Rosemarie called the ambulance again for her husband’s pain, and he was taken to Fiona Stanley Hospital on her insistence.
Rosemarie drove with her sister-in-law to the hospital, and within the hour, Rosemarie was told her husband had cancer.
“When we got there we found out they were 99.9 per cent sure that he had myeloma,” she said.
“They’re really good in an emergency...they were really on to it,” Reginald added. “They told me that they would get on to it right now...they said they had to start treatment ASAP.”
Within days, Reginald was treated with chemotherapy for multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, and for his spinal cord compression.
Following the incident, Rosemarie made a complaint to the Peel Health Campus and met with a staff member, but said she felt her complaint fell on deaf ears. “All I was told about was the lifespan of a person,” she said.
The hospital gave Reginald a free four-wheel seat walker to use “until he dies” and then she would have to return it, she said.
Rosemarie said she was angry with the medical system and felt helpless.
“He could have died...and to see everything he went through. It was really bad.”
Reginald sees an oncologist at Peel Health Campus regularly for his cancer treatment, but says he will not go back to the emergency department at the hospital.
A Peel Health Campus spokesperson told the Mandurah Mail they take these complaints very seriously.
“We apologise unreservedly to Mr and Mrs Whiu for their experience and have met with them to convey our apology in person,” the spokesperson said.
“As such, we are looking into this incident and how our systems and processes could be improved to support quality of care and good decision making.”
Follow journalist Carla Hildebrandt on Twitter at @hildebrandt_c.