by S Lowe
WattleRangeNow spoke with Dr Francois Pretorius today (March 19), on the eve of his departure from the Penola Medical Centre this Friday (March 22) in an update of the report WattleRangeNow posted on March 5 on this site.
WattleRangeNow asked Dr Pretorius about recent reports in other media that saying he didn’t have permission to admit children to the Penola Hospital.
He described to WattleRangeNow his attempts to admit patients to the Penola Hospital in the latter part of 2012 and the repercussions.
Late last year he admitted a pregnant woman — who in his professional assessment needed hospitalization — to the Penola Hospital for bed rest.
His actions as a doctor — admitting a patient to hospital — resulted in a Government Health Advisor being sent from Adelaide to Penola for what he thought was a mediation meeting. But the purpose of the meeting was to reprimand him, after one and a half hours of what he described as “being bullied and chastised.”
Dr Pretorius told WattleRangeNow that he asked the Health Advisor “I thought you were here to mediate?”. The reply he received was “No, I am here to prepare a report for Helen Chalmers.” Helen Chalmers was replacing Peter Chapman (CHSA) while he was on leave.
In Decmber 2012, he tried to admit one of his patients — a small boy with an acute asthmas attack — to the Penola Hospital. He was told by the hospital that he could not admit his patient and he would have to send him to Mt Gambier Hospital.
A second incident occurred with a child patient who had fallen off of monkey bars and had sustained concussion — again he was told by the hospital that he could not admit his patient to the Penola Hospital.
Attempts by Dr Pretorius to find out why he was unable to admit children to the Penola Hospital were met with what he termed as “political” and “neutral” answers.
He continued to ask if he could admit children to the Penola hospital seeking a definite yes or no answer. Again he received a neutral answer. He was told that it was difficult to give a yes or no answer regarding his request to admit children to Penola Hospital.
He again asked for a clear answer to his position and asked if he had permission to admit children to the Penola Hospital. He was told that each situation is different with children and there was no yes or no answer — so he, a doctor, did not know if he was able to admit children to the Penola Hosptital.
Dr Pretorius is in possession of documentation that has been recorded, describing him as ‘toxic’ because he asked to admit children to the Penola Hospital.
Dr Pretorius has 20 years experience in paediatrics , and he told WattleRangeNow that he knows his own level of expertise and the limits of the Penola Hospital and is able to assess whether a child needs hospitalization in Penola or Mt Gambier.
Six months ago, Dr Pretorius requested intravenous solution for children to be stocked in the Penola Hospital, but he still has not received it — without it he cannot admit children because he cannot treat them. He wonders why he has not been sent the IV solution. He said that he feels that his hand is being forced in this situation and Penola Hospital has been without IV for children for over six months.
Early in November 2012, a phone poll was set up by between Country Health SA and the people of Penola and surrounding districts. They had the opportunity to call Country Health SA and voice their concerns about healthcare in Penola. After 152 phone calls the phone line was shut down and no else could call through. No response has been forthcoming from Country Health SA since that phone in.
In January 2013 the Health Minister, Mr Jack Snelling, visited the Penola Hospital but Dr Pretorius was not notified of the Minister’s forthcoming visit and was not contacted by the Minister during the visit. Dr Pretorius did not see the Minister on this visit. The Health Minister did visit the Millicent Hospital on March 13, and the Millicent Medical Clinic was not advised of his planned visit and was not visited by the Minister.
I asked Dr Pretorius what he thought could change the very difficult situation that Penola, Millicent and the Kangaroo Island clinics faced with Country Health SA. He told WattleRangeNow that “nothing short of a change in Government can do it.”
Dr Pretorius resigned from Penola Medical Centre after what he described as unreasonable work demands made on him by Country Health SA He was on call 24/7 and was reprimanded for taking his children on a family outing to Beachport.
WattleRangeNow has contacted Country HealthSA andwill post any comment received as it is received.
This is an ongoing situation and a follow up to this story will be posted shortly: