Peel Health Emergency: Mandurah woman speaks out after misdiagnosis

Mandurah woman Virginia Pitts. Photo: Caitlyn Rintoul.
Mandurah woman Virginia Pitts. Photo: Caitlyn Rintoul.

Seeing three separate doctors, in three different countries across one week wasn’t what Mandurah woman Virginia Pitts would describe as an ideal situation. 

Ms Pitts was just days away from a trip to Manilla in the Philippines when she fell ill, but due to a misdiagnosis at Peel Health Campus continued with her flight plans. 

That decision to continue on her journey put her through an experience she could only describe as an “ordeal”. 

Ms Pitts claimed if she had been “taken seriously” by doctors at Peel Health Campus she wouldn't have been put in that situation.

The 54-year-old said she attended Peel Health Campus in October 2013, when she felt like she was “going to die” after experiencing an uncontrollable coughing fit. 

In was close to midnight on October 9, when Ms Pitts arrived at Peel Health Campus. 

Having an initial conversation with nurses, Ms Pitts sat down in the empty waiting room. 

She had to sit in the waiting room for more than 30 minutes before she was called to see a doctor.

Concerned ahead of her Philippines trip to see family, Ms Pitts said she reiterated her urgency to sort out her issue to the doctor. 

After an assessment was undertaken, the doctor “turned her away” with advice that she had just acquired the flu. 

Ms Pitts told the doctor she believed it was more than just the flu because she felt like she was dying. 

She alleged the doctor didn't check her temperature, use a stethoscope or undertake an x-ray and just told her to take four Nurofen Plus pills. 

He also advised her to take Nurofen Plus when she got home as recommended on the packet. 

When she touched down for a layover at Singapore Changi Airport, Ms Pitts felt ill and had to be taken by airport staff to the onsite clinic. 

She was told by the Singaporean doctor that she had pneumonia and he advised her that she shouldn't be flying. 

Wanting to get back to Manilla, Ms Pitts had to sign a series of documents to ensure the airline she was using wasn't liable if her condition worsened. 

When in Manilla she was hospitalised for a week and claimed she had to take medication for the 10 days after.

The incident particularly concerned Ms Pitts in her position as Peel Multicultural Association president.  

English is Ms Pitts’ second language. 

Her English is occasionally broken and often finds people have difficulties understanding her.  

She expressed concerns for others, whose English wasn’t as strong. 

Ms Pitts said the hospital needed to make sure patients that were hard to understand were taken seriously, even if they struggled to articulate their situation.  

A Ramsay Health Care spokeswoman said due to patient confidentiality, the hospital couldn’t provide specific details of Ms Pitts’ case.

“We are regretful for the difficulties Ms Pitts experienced while seeking treatment at Peel Health Campus in October 2013,” she said.

“Peel Health Campus has a complaints process in place for anyone who is not satisfied with their care or treatment at the hospital.”

The spokeswoman also encouraged Ms Pitts to contact the complaints officer through the hospital, so further investigation could be made into her concerns and correspond with her directly.

“In the event that Peel Health Campus is unable to resolve complaints to the satisfaction of a patient, the patient has the option of contacting the Health and Disability Services Complaints Office (HaDSCO),” she said. 

“HaDSCO is an independent and impartial service that will review complaints and assist with complaint resolution. This is a free and confidential service.”