Liz Telford and Fleur Rubens letter to The Age was published on August 18, 2015
Julia Medew highlights errors in clinical management that have occurred in our hospitals with some devastating outcomes (“Hundreds of patients’ deaths preventable”, 15/8). A lack of medical knowledge is another cause. Here is a real example. In 2011, a man died unexpectedly in a major hospital a month after surgery. He had a history of polio. A surgical error considered minor (as it is for someone without post polio) combined with inappropriate post-surgery care (due to hospital ignorance of post-polio management) resulted in respiratory failure. The cause of death was given as “post polio”, although it was not the disease process but clinical management that caused this man’s preventable death.
Anyone who contracted polio, whether paralysed or not (an estimated 400,000 Australians) may develop post polio, a condition that may affect the central nervous and respiratory systems. One Victorian hospital now has a polio medical alert for patients known to have had polio. All hospitals need to do the same, and patients should alert staff if they ever contracted polio. Despite the successful global polio eradication campaign, post polio will be around for decades to come and hospital staff must be educated.