As is normal these days the nursing home that we went to was 'well known' to us. The patient had the normal 'difficulty in breathing' which I have learnt means anything from a cold to the patient not breathing at all.
As we arrived I spotted two Healthcare Assistants standing outside smoking. “Another ambulance”, one of them commented, “This place is a right dump”.
I couldn't really disagree with them.
So we made our way up to the patient – no-one was there to show us where to go, again not unusual. Our FRU was already there, he's a good bloke and I trust his clinical skills completely. He'd already done a full assessment and was talking to the nurse in charge. From the sound of the patient's breathing and his high temperature it was obvious that he had pneumonia.
So I asked the nurse how long he had been coughing and having trouble with his breathing.
“Ten minutes”, she replied.
Now, you don't need to be a medical genius to realise that his breathing must have been horrible for quite some time. But given the amount of times I've heard that “the patient was fine until five minutes ago” from a nursing home nurse I suspect that there is a whole load of medical books that need rewriting.
The patient was seriously ill, and you don't get like that in ten minutes. My guess would have been that he was unwell for at least a day, yet no-one thought to call a doctor or us until it looked like the patient might die.
Yet again the nurse in charge of his care didn't seem to know anything about the patient, when I asked about the patient the nurse seemed to think that giving me a list of their medicines counts for this. Sadly this is also not unusual. I did my usual trick of pretending not to know what a certain drug does, then ask the nurse to see if they know. It is essential that a nurse knows about the medication that they are giving someone so that they understand the effects and side effects that can occur. Unfortunately in many of the nursing homes we go to this is a rarity.
In this case she was unsure as to why he had been recently prescribed some antibiotics.
I used my 'ex-nurse' knowledge to write a quick entry in the patient's nursing notes – that way nothing can be added after we have left. It's a little trick of mine that satisfies my bloody-mindedness.
So we moved the rather ill patient to the ambulance and while treating him waited for the accompanying member of staff. We waited and we waited, I was considering just driving off. Eventually one of the usual foot-shuffler 'nurses' made an appearance and we left for the hospital.
It's depressing, and I've written about this before, but it's all too common to find this sort of neglect going on in nursing homes. The companies who run these places make huge amounts of profits, yet the care is what I, in fact what most people, would call sub-standard. If the number of people with dementia continue to increase, then more people will need nursing care, and if the care isn't there at the moment I dread to think what it will be like in the future.
Two links to finish off – one is to Inspector Gadget who tells us of a terrible story where two scum who left a police officer brain-damaged have just had their sentences reduced. The other link is to a great work of fiction by Rocky Mountain Medic.
Oh, and hello if you came here from the Daily Mirror.