Nursing Review Issue 2 March-April 2022 - Page 6


‘ Not the right treatment ’

Teenager given ‘ shut-up pill ’ before death .
By NCA NewsWire


teenage girl was given Panadol by a remote north-west Queensland hospital and sent home on multiple occasions before succumbing to a serious heart condition that went untreated , Four
Corners has revealed .
Yvette “ Betty ” Booth was just 18 when she died from rheumatic heart disease ( RHD ) – a rare heart condition that in Australia occurs almost exclusively in remote indigenous communities .
Booth attended the town of Doomadgee ’ s hospital emergency department 12 times in under two months .
Despite needing weekly check-ups and urgent surgery , the teenager was on some occasions given Panadol through a security window and told to go home .
“ We know that it ’ s not the right treatment , but unfortunately , Panadol ’ s easy to give out , so you know , people will get the Panadol and we ’ ll say , ‘ oh , that ’ s the shut-up pill ’,” Director of lobby group RHD Australia , Vicki Wade said .
Paediatric cardiologist , Bo Remenyi visited Doomadgee in July 2019 to screen children for RHD and diagnosed Booth with a severe case of the disease .
Her team left detailed instructions regarding Booth ’ s care with multiple health
4 | nursingreview . com . au bodies , including that she needed urgent surgery to repair the valves in her heart .
However , Four Corners reported that no record of her illness was kept on Doomadgee Hospital ’ s file .
Just four days after her diagnosis , Booth presented at the hospital at 11pm with a cough , fever and vomiting . She was given Panadol and treatment for dehydration and told to come back in the morning .
Remenyi said it was common for patients who present on weekends or after hours , to be assessed through a locked security screen .
“ The conversation takes place over a cage , without actually touching the patient or examining the patient or giving that real opportunity to discuss the symptoms ,” she said .
“ How many times can you present , with the same symptoms , pressing symptoms , coughing up blood , shortness of breath , tachycardia , and each time the outcome is not different ?”
In September 2019 , Booth again became seriously ill and returned to the hospital . Due to there being no record of her illness on file , Booth was kept waiting for several hours while her condition deteriorated .
Staff determined she should be flown to a larger hospital for treatment , however , they categorised her as “ low dependency ”. An hour later , a plane was ordered from Townsville , rather than from the closer large hospital in Mount Isa .
“[ It feels ] like they treat us like animals .
Relative of Booth , Marilyn Haala and her husband Clennon Bob were not allowed in the hospital to see the girl as she awaited transfer .
“ No one would let me go in , even the nurse or the doctors ,” Bob says .
By the time the plane landed in Doomadgee , Booth had been dead for almost two hours .
“[ The ] doctor that was treating her , came out and gave us the bad news : Betty didn ‘ t make it ,” Bob says , slowly shaking his head .
Within a year of Booth ’ s death , two other women died of RHD after seeking treatment at Doomadgee hospital . One of them was 17-year old Shakaya George , the other was her aunt , Adele Sandy .
Haala said the system needs to drastically change if the deaths of more young people with RHD are to be avoided .
“ Because what they did there , they just going to keep killing people ,” she said .
“[ It feels ] like they treat us like animals . They going to keep killing them . And get away with it .”
Multiple investigations into Doomadgee Hospital are now underway . ■