A COMPLAINT has been lodged with Limestone Coast Local Health Network and the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist following difficulties experienced by a 25-year-old woman presenting to the Mount Gambier emergency department.
Emma Thulborn presented to the emergency room on June 26 after excessive vomiting with her mother, Michelle Thulborn, who accompanied her for mental health support.
Previously struggling with mental health issues, Emma’s mother hoped to accompany her daughter while she received medical treatment for the vomiting as a carer, which she said was repeatedly denied.
After being refused entry to the emergency room to support her daughter, Ms Thulborn wrote a lengthy complaint to the local health network and chief psychiatrist.
This follows the lifting of a gazette on Mount Gambier and District Hospital regarding its mental health service in mid-June.
Speaking to Border Watch, Ms Thulborn said she felt extremely disappointed and frustrated at being denied treatment with her daughter.
“Emma has presented to the emergency room several times since we filed the complaint last week and we have highlighted our concerns about her unstable mental health with each presentation,” Ms Thulborn said.
“We both repeatedly requested that Emma be allowed to bring me to the emergency department as a mental health support person and provide information about her history and communicate about her current condition, but we we were constantly refused.”
She said mental health issues were not being treated as a serious issue at the local emergency department, saying treatment like their experience could delay others needing help.
“Very often, people with mental illness delay seeking help because they constantly run into brick walls within the healthcare system,” Ms Thulborn said.
“This means that at times when these people are often in distress, they are not able to defend themselves, so the support of a family member, caregiver or mental health support person is essential to communicate effectively with staff.”
In her formal complaint, Ms Thulborn said there were a range of issues attributed to her daughter’s struggles, including the sudden death of her father recently.
She said that due to Emma’s continuous vomiting she was also unable to absorb her medication and once admitted and treated she continued to vomit uncontrollably.
“I went to the ER and asked to be admitted to support Emma, but that request was again denied,” Ms Thulborn said.
“I expressed concern for Emma’s fragile and unstable mental health and was told to wait in the waiting room and someone would come out to talk to me.
“After over an hour, I again asked to speak to Emma’s GP and was again told to wait.”
She said that once a doctor officially spoke to her, they informed her that Emma was due out soon.
“I have once again expressed my concern not only for Emma’s physical condition, but also for her mental state and the fact that she is not keeping her medication,” Ms Thulborn said.
“The doctor refused to allow me to be with Emma for support and told me she was going out.”
Ms Thulborn said that despite being fired several times, Emma was still throwing up.
She was soon officially admitted to hospital on Monday and discharged on Tuesday, her 26th birthday.
“Despite the difficulties, we found the staff who were on the ward to be amazing and in addition to the wonderful nurses who helped look after her, the mental health team were also amazing,” Ms Thulborn said.
“They were all very thorough once Emma was admitted and excellent with mental health support.”
Ms Thulborn said once admitted the care was fantastic, at no point was she told why she was unable to support her daughter in the emergency room.
A Limestone Coast Local Health Network spokesperson said patient health and safety remained the “top priority” and the best interests of mental health patients remained at the forefront of system care.
“Visitors are not permitted in the emergency department except for a support person who can be arranged with the nurse manager on a case-by-case basis,” the spokesperson said.
SA Health and for confidentiality reasons are unable to comment on the details of individual patient cases.