‘I have a duty to warn you’: Doctor’s open letter


A SOUTHEAST Queensland emergency physician has taken the extraordinary step of writing an open letter to the community he works for to highlight the worrying inadequacies of their local hospital.

Emergency physician Michael Cameron said the Redland Hospital had failed to expand with the region's rapidly growing population, prompting him to pen the letter to the People of the Redlands about what to expect as a patient.


Dr Michael Cameron, an emergency physician at Redland Hospital. Picture:  AAP/Steve Pohlner
Dr Michael Cameron, an emergency physician at Redland Hospital. Picture: AAP/Steve Pohlner


I am writing to you as your doctor. Maybe not today but tomorrow, or next week, or next year. I work in the Redland Hospital Emergency Department. When you are brought to my ED I may well be your doctor and my team and I will do our best to look after you.

The staff are all well trained, the Emergency Department is well equipped, I am proud to say we can provide first class first world emergency medical care for the people of the Redlands. The difference begins when you need admission to hospital under a medical specialty (eg orthopaedics).

You may not be aware that at Redland Hospital we lack several key specialties (eg orthopaedics, urology ). If you need to be admitted under such a specialist you can go Private or wait in the queue for a bed at the Princess Alexandra Hospital or Logan Hospital.

Since those hospitals' EDs also have patients queuing for beds, significant delays are inevitable. In clinical care, that matters.

So I am writing to you today to say that if it is you who needs the Emergency Department tomorrow, or next week, or next year, choose carefully.

Will you go to the Princess Alexandra Hospital, a top level Public Hospital with all specialties on site and advanced imaging such as MRI available?

Or will you choose the Redland Hospital, where we will see you as soon as we can and will try our best to help you. If needed, we can transfer you on to another hospital.

In case you aren't aware, here are some of the things we can't do at the Redland Hospital

1. Any surgery (except maternity related) after 5pm weekdays or all weekend. That means if you get appendicitis and come to us you may need to be transferred to have it removed.

2. Emergency Orthopaedic surgery any time. We are pretty good with fractures and dislocations in the ED but some cases need a specialist surgeon. We only have visiting surgeons in the Fracture clinic (daytime most days, Monday to Friday).

3. Ear nose and throat, ophthalmology, neurology, urology, vascular surgery among many more specialties. We refer people needing those specialist services to other hospitals.

4. Coronary angiograms, stents, bypass surgery. We do have a Cardiologist available to give an opinion on some days of the week but for Public patients south of the river those procedures are only done at the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

5. Intensive Care. If you need to be put on life support, we can do it but then we need to transfer you somewhere else, with an Intensive Care Unit. Sometimes that takes quite a while to arrange. We will send a senior doctor and nurse with you in the ambulance when you are transferred.

We do however have free parking for staff, patients and relatives.

Like other Public Hospitals we are struggling for space to put all our patients. They often wait for days in my ED for a bed in our hospital or another hospital.

The same can be said of other EDs in Metro South. But at least if you are waiting in the same ED as the Specialist attends, you will be likely to get your care sooner. That can be important.

As your doctor, I have a duty to warn you that the choice you make may make a difference.