60 Minutes reporter Liz Hayes has opened up about the devastating loss of her father after a simple oversight in a rural hospital proved deadly.
The veteran reporter turned the camera on herself over the weekend, after a tragic series of missteps saw her father left dying in hospital after staff forgot to administer his life-saving medication for eight days in a row.
A part of a special investigation into issues in regional Australian hospitals, the episode saw the reporter who has been with Nine for almost 40 years open up about her devastating loss that she feels sure could have been avoided.
In last August 2019, Liz’s father 88-year-old Bryan Ryan was admitted to Manning Base Hospital in Taree, a town a few hours north of Sydney, with a case of pneumonia.
While there, the 88-year-old beat the virus but suffered a sudden stroke on September 7th, just over a week after being admitted.
Liz says she soon discovered he had suffered the stroke because the anti-stroke tablets he took for a heart condition had not been administered to him once in the eight days he was at the hospital. It came on the back of Bryan being administered an overdose of one of his regular medications on his very first night at the hospital, which he managed to recover from.
This time, he wasn’t so lucky, tragically passing away five days later on September 11.
The double bungle, it was later revealed, came down to an administrative error when Brian checked in – his medication wasn’t properly noted upon his admission to the hospital.
Breaking down on camera, Liz revealed she is confident the administrative oversight ultimately lead to his untimely death.
“If that hadn’t happened to dad I feel confident that he wouldn’t have suffered that stroke,” she said in a sit-down interview with fellow journalist Jamelle Wells who also opened up about her father’s experience of a medical bungle that led to his death.
Wiping tears, she revealed she had in fact filmed herself by her dying father’s bedside upon receiving the news that his medication hadn’t been administered.
“I don’t even know who I was talking to,” she says now, admitting she hasn’t been able to watch the video back. “I think I couldn’t believe it.”
“I think I thought I was recording my hurt, my horror, my sadness, and my dad,” she said, struggling through tears.
She later described the experience as ‘brutal’ and ‘awful’.
Investigation exposes ‘underfunded, ill-equipped’ public health service
The investigation intended to reveal how understaffing and underfunding in regional Australian hospitals leaves Australians who rely on those services for everything from basic to critical care, at risk of similar errors.
Writing about the experience for the Sydney Morning Herald, Liz described her shock when she came across the startling lack of staffing.
“...I also couldn’t believe that this was a rural private hospital of 79 beds that usually had just one doctor on the wards. Doctors brought in often from outside of the area. And when the lights went out, so too did the doctor,” she wrote.
“The only requirement was for the doctor to be on call and no more than 20 minutes away.”
She says she soon realised that this was common in rural hospitals.
“Instead what confronts so many people in regional Australia is a health service that is underfunded, ill-equipped and struggling to cope – with devastating consequences,” she reported in the 60 Minutes special.
Audiences react to ‘disappointing’ oversights
The story has since prompted a wave of support for the two journalists, with many taking to social media to wish their condolences and thank them for exposing the cracks in the system.
“Liz your story touched my heart,” one woman wrote on Twitter. “I felt your pain. When you were filming in hospital with your dad in the background it really it home.”
“Well done Liz and Jamelle,” another wrote. “Thank you for sharing your personal stories, and for highlighting, what is, a systemic issue.”
“Thank you for sharing your stories, as heartbreaking as they are. I felt all the emotions. It's utterly disgusting and so disappointing,” another shared.