Do hospital staff discriminate against riders?

First Aid for Motorcyclists course safety contract

Do hospital staff have a prejudice against motorcycle riders because they are seen as careless risk-takers clogging up the health system and does it affect their level of care?

It’s a question worth asking, according to a university professor and a motorcycle clothing supplier.

Deakin University’s Dr Chris Hurren, who has been developing new industry standards for motorcycle clothing safety labelling, says he has heard of several incidences of hospital discrimination towards riders.

His remarks follow a crash involving Draggin Jeans CEO Grant Mackintosh and a cyclist in the Adelaide Hills in June 2016.

Draggin CEO Grant Mackintosh Do hospital staff discriminate against riders?
Draggin CEO Grant Mackintosh

Grant says he was badly injured and was not aware of any discrimination, but says his wife, Julia, a clinical sister, believed he was treated differently.

“Julia mentioned to me that because I came in as a motorcyclist I was treated quite differently from the guy on the pushbike,” he says.

“It had on my admission report that I was motorcyclist who hit a cyclist.”

(The word “hit” seems to suggest blame on the motorcyclist. Young journalists are taught to use the word “collide” if both parties are moving as it does not imply blame.)

“I got the police report form the accident recently and it said I wasn’t speeding, had no alcohol or drugs in my system and that the cyclist was on wrong side of the road,” Grant says.

Yet he believes those simple words on his admission report may have led to a prejudice against him.

“They (hospital staff) treated Julie and me differently from what they did the cyclist. I think they automatically assume the motorcyclist is always to blame.

“The cyclist and his family were admitted at the same time and he got ushered in and looked after while I was stuck in a room with a screaming kid and not many people very interested in me.”

Recently Grant was talking with Dr Hurren about the new safety labelling standards and was asked if he had experienced any prejudice at hospital.

“I hadn’t really thought about it while I was in hospital as I was more concerned with my condition, but my wife said there was,” Grant says.

“Chris told me it’s not uncommon.”

Dr Hurren agrees that there is the possibility of prejudice against injured motorcycle riders.

“I have had several people mention to me now about discrimination they have received during treatment for a motorcycle accident hence my question to Grant,” he says.

“It is something that I think worth looking into as it would be both uncomfortable for the rider and family in question and could indirectly cause increased health care costs as riders don’t receive the treatment they require in a timely manner.”

He is expecting to start research on the matter, possibly after finalising the safety labelling standards.

MBW hospital experiences

My own experiences after two major motorcycle crashes have been extremely different.

On the first occasion I was admitted to emergency with a broken foot after an off-road motorcycle crash.

My wife apologised profusely about my stupidity and the nurses seemed to take it from there, lecturing me and treating me in an off-hand way.

However, once admitted to the ward, I was treated well.

Motorcycle Helmet Do hospital staff discriminate against riders?
Shoei helmet from my second crash

I had the complete opposite experience after a second and more serious crash.

Perhaps it was the fact that the female emergency ward supervisor was a motorcycle rider and the chief surgeon at the time was also a rider.

Not only did I not experience any negative prejudice, but I struck up long conversations with the doctors about riding.

And when I specifically asked if the staff were sick of the number of injured riders causing them extra work, they said it was not as bad as the number of cyclists they attended.

“At least motorcyclists wear protective clothing” one nurse remarked.

16 Comments

  1. When I had a crash I was treated like crap. I had crack my spin.6 broken ribs clasped lung broken collar bone broken toes and fingers bark off every ware wounds left on treated . They just didn’t care. Kick me out after 2 days.

  2. I had a fall and landed very heavily on my shoulder resulting in a partial dislocation, my head hit the ground luckily I was wearing my helmet and all the gear the helmet actually had a piece taken out of it by a rock the bike landed on top of me as we slide down the slope which resulted in some internal bruising. Long story short I managed to put my shoulder back into it’s rightful position and get the bike upright and ride out to a hospital.(riding on my own and no mobile phone reception in the area) Okay once at the hospital I was taken care of fairly quickly as by this time the pain was pushing et least 8 on a scale of 10. I was examined taken for xrays a CT scan no broken bones and after about 4 hours of being kept under observation and being told on numerous occasion I was to old to be riding and I should consider giving it up, okay I’m into my 70’s and a woman been riding for more than 60 years. I was released with a few painkillers to tide me over. Okay where I feel that I was let down was in the fact that I had stated that my shoulder had been dislocated that statement was treated rather lightly although they did do an xray of my upper body but no ultra sound to check for soft tissue damage, anyway 11 weeks later when I complained that my should was still painful an ultra sound was carried out and detached tendons found but due to my age and the length of time since it happened the tendons had shrunk beyond repairable limits. so to this day I have pain and weakness in the shoulder.

  3. I have no doubt that in a high percentage of cases the rider is ‘to blame’ even if unconsciously. You only have to look at some of the squids on the roads. Admittedly they’re but a small percentage, but they’re the ones that people notice. In the ‘outsider’s’ eyes we’re all tarred with the same brush.

  4. 1986 major accident went through windscreen and got run over by a wheel at 4pm, was assessed and home by 7pm. Next morning couldn’t move bed ridden for 6 weeks, hospital weren’t interested.

    2004 fell over when bike stalled, snapped my leg in half but still rode home put shorts on got mate to take me to emergency, nurse looked through glass doors saw my leg and I had people running everywhere well looked after.

    2005 high sided in diesel landed on a sign post, ambo to hospital smashed collar bone dislocated shoulder well looked after sent home in a brace. 6 weeks later went to GP hard to breathe he dpat the dummy full tests found 6 broken ribs 1 was floating he wrote to hospital and health dept and got up them, no response! He told me it was typical care of a rider.

  5. A very interesting article. Yes, I think there are people everywhere who don’t understand motorcyclists and are also afraid of motorcycles and their riders.

    From my point of view it is also clear – although maybe not correct – that people judge other people. We all do this ourselves on a daily basis. Often unconsciously. Sometimes consciously. And if I imagine that I would have to treat a shot burglar, I would not like him either, but I would have to treat him anyway.
    A nurse may have similar thoughts when she thinks the motorcyclist is to blame.

    Personally, I have never had bad experiences, but fortunately I have never had a serious accident with the motorcycle. But accidents on other occasions. And I have always discovered passions in people. Sometimes the photographing. Sometimes travelling. And sometimes riding the motorcycle. A common passion or empathy for the passion of the other person works wonders.

  6. As a registered nurse & rider I would say yes, from my own experience post accident. The ED staff were great but once I was admitted to the ward I was ignored. They wouldn’t even give me an ice pack for my injuries, let alone apply a dressing to an abrasion despite repeated requests. The orthopaedic team refused to see me, social work never visited…live alone, no family support etc but had to look after myself at home whilst on crutches…& after writing a 3 page letter of complaint, was summoned to the hospital to be told that they were only giving me their time to placate me, no apology, nothing. I consider myself lucky compared to the treatment a friend is receiving atm…2 months in hospital & not only have orthopaedics refused to see her, she was told there is no orthopaedic team! She has had to resort to contacting her local MP for help. I had to advise her re medication she should have been prescribed as standard practice. We are in different States but seems the attitude to riders is exactly the same.

  7. I picked up my son from a Sydney hospital after an accident where he had quite a few breakages of bones, limbs after a car crossed his path against a red light. When we attended the Hospital after he had been there for 24hrs he kept complaining about incredible pain in his knee. A nurse in the ward actually told him “what do your expect, your a motorcycle rider!”
    After two months of limping around in incredible pain, our local doctor in country NSW found his knee was in fact broken. Nuff said!

  8. I had mother nature blow me off the road at 60 mph near Medford, OR, USA. I was found unconscious. I was taken to Sky Lakes Medical center. Yes my wife and I noticed a cavalier attitude toward me because I came in as a motorcycle rider with my gear on. It seemed as it was my fault. I was released 8 days later and 2 days after that checked back into the hospital at home because my left lung was filling up with fluid again. I was treated much better. Possibility though is that I work at this hospital. I try to talk to most riders who are unfortunate to end up there and haven’t ran into any that feel care here is any less because they are a motorcyclist. I suspect it varies by local and personal experiences people have had. Crazy riders can ruin it for the rest who are law abiding and don’t ride crazy.

  9. I have heard a lot of anecdotal stuff such as my wife is a nurse and she says you ‘motorcyclists’ are all just waiting to be organ doners. Pretty nasty stuff. I experienced it with my son who is a postie and recreational rider. When he attended the orthopaedic surgeonfish a hand injury he got a relentless lecture about the dangers of riding. The guy kept looking at me for support till I gave in and said don’t look at me. I ride too. He stopped talking to either of us then and got on with poking at the hand.

  10. I work as a theatre orderly at a major Brisbane Public Hospital. My work involves transferring patients to & from operating tables, positioning them for surgery, and the often gruesome task of assisting with preparing & cleaning injuries prior to surgery (often multiple surgeries). I wear scrubs all day, and don’t do general ward duties.
    I’ve been a road bike rider for many years, and currently have a large capacity pure sport bike, which I love, and use as my major form of transport.
    We see a lot of motorbike injuries, both on- and off-road, single vehicle, multi vehicle, at fault, not at fault, etc. Seeing so much carnage doesn’t necessarily slow me down, but I’m constantly aware of possible consequences, which can’t be a bad thing.
    There’s often a lot of head-shaking and the kinds of ill-informed comments we riders are all familiar with, from surgical and nursing staff of all levels, especially around older riders. I try to defend and explain the passion in a reasonable way when I can, eg “you don’t stop surfing just because you have a few grey hairs”, etc. There are a few riders among staff of all levels, we know who we are, though we tend to keep it fairly quiet.
    I should stress that comments aside, ALL our patients receive the total commitment, skill, and resources, of a team of highly trained and dedicated professionals, no matter the condition or injury (and this includes the VERY many patients with obesity-related or other “self inflicted” conditions). Very many of the Anaesthetic and Surgical staff (especially the guys) are passionate, dedicated cyclists – yes, MAMILs. We get a lot of injured bicyclists too. But it does seem to be the motorbike riders who cop the most flak. I’m blaming Marlon Brando …

  11. Just over 12 months ago I had a front wheel failure on my Goldwing and, according to all accounts, took a quite dramatic tumble – of which I have no memory. My memory picks up in Nambour Hospital ICU the next day.
    I take my hat off to all staff at Nambour as their level of care was awesome. All the nurses were attentive, the specialists took their time with me – even the wardies were cracking jokes and trying to make my stay more palatable.
    I’m sure a lot of the time we receive care and attention in accordance with the persona that we portray – I always try to make a point of being polite and pleasant and give everybody the benefit of the doubt – as we don’t know what sort of day they were having prior to our appearance in their lives.
    In saying that – I have no qualms in telling people they’re useless if they’re obviously negligent, but it takes me a lot to get to that point.

  12. I’ve never had any problems any of the times I’ve ended up in hospital except when I was 13 and hit a tree,rode back into town with a piece of branch stuck into my pelvic bone. Got told off by the nurse st the duty desk for bleeding on the carpet. Was told to wait outside till the doctor and nurses finished their lunch break.

  13. This is just appalling. I wouldn’t have given this a second thought that something like this could even happen. It definitely needs investigation, but will that change peoples mindset as to how they view riders, probably not….

    Very shameful indeed

  14. Back in about 1982 I hit a kangaroo south of Sarina. My now wife and I were both taken to Sarina Base Hospital and kept in for the night with fairly minor injuries. One of the nurses got her boyfriend to bring in some bike mags so I wasn’t bored. At the time there was an airline strike on and we thought we may have trouble getting back to Brisbane when we were released. No problems said the hospital staff, if you can’t get out of town come back and we will admit you for observation for the night. We managed to get flights out of Mackay, about 35 k from Sarina and another of the nurses got her partner to drive us to the airport. I’m not sure if this type of treatment would still occur but at the time it left a pretty positive impression on me.

  15. I once spent a boring night at Royal North Shore hospital casualty department waiting to be looked at after being rammed in the back by a car. By daylight, after everyone before and after me had been treated and I was the only one left, somebody came over and asked me why I was there. I got the hint and left.

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