10-day wait for surgery

TESTING PATIENCE: Irene Irwin fractured her elbow but had to wait 10 days for surgery. Photo supplied

A KAWERAU woman is appealing to the health ministry to help improve hospital processes after she was forced to wait more than 10 days for surgery to fix her fractured elbow.

Irene Irwin was also required to travel from Gisborne to Whakatane Hospital for treatment.
Although she also owns a home in Matawai, Ms Irwin said she believed she was forced to travel to Whakatane Hospital for treatment because she lived in Kawerau most of the time.

Ms Irwin injured her elbow on April 8, when she fell while in Gisborne.

She was taken to the emergency department at Gisborne Hospital and x-rays showed she had fractured her right radius and ulna, which had punctured the skin.

Ms Irwin said she had no issues with the treatment she received from the staff in the emergency department.

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With no orthopaedic surgeon at Gisborne, Waikato Hospital was contacted to provide the necessary treatment. The plan was to fly Ms Irwin to Waikato, but hospital staff said they had no room and were too busy to receive her as a patient.

So, Ms Irwin was admitted to Gisborne Hospital overnight and a plan was made to fly her to Waikato the following day.

However, bad weather meant the flight was delayed. Ms Irwin said it was at this time, that the Bay of Plenty District Health Board and Whakatane Hospital were first mentioned.

JOINT PAIN: A series of pins were put in Irene Irwin’s elbow in a bid to repair her shattered elbow.

“It was only at this time that we became aware that resource issues could complicate further immediate treatment as patient’s home address was Kawerau [and] the nearest hospital being Whakatane.

“We did offer to drive to Waikato Hospital, but the flight nurse felt it was ‘too far’ and to wait.”

On April 10, poor weather meant that Ms Irwin could not be flown to Waikato again.

Ms Irwin said she was disappointed that no ambulance, driver or transport costs were offered by Tairawhiti District Health Board.

However, Ms Irwin said the delays weren’t over, even after making it to Whakatane Hospital.

The surgery process was left to a registrar to explain, and Ms Irwin said it was then that she was advised her surgery was planned for April 16.

She said she was told to report to admissions at 1.30pm and not to eat anything from midnight on April 15.

“So, it was back to Kawerau for the weekend on medication – 14 painkillers per day and a carer to assist with bathing, feeding, dressing and personal toileting. It was an uncomfortable weekend.”

Ms Irwin said she arrived at the hospital on April 16 as advised and while she waited all day, for an operation that she had been told would take an hour, by 4.30pm she was told to go home and return on April 18.

“During the five hours of waiting no one looked [at my] arm or asked if [I] was in pain. [I] wasn’t given any pain relief or fluid. [I] was taken home dehydrated, with a throbbing headache anxious, gutted and rightfully pissed off.”

Finally, Ms Irwin went into surgery on April 18. However, afterwards she was left to question why a prosthesis was not inserted during the operation, given less than half of her radius remained. Ms Irwin said she was nervous that she would eventually need another operation and was not looking forward to repeating her experience.

She said she felt compelled to make a complaint to the health minister, David Clarke, and ACC minister Clare Curran because she did not want anyone else to go through the same treatment.Ms Irwin said she also did not believe it was fair that she was forced to receive treatment at Whakatane Hospital, because she had injured herself in Gisborne and owned a home in that district.

Tairawhiti District Health Board communications manager Fraser Hopkins said it was investigating Ms Irwin’s concerns and would respond directly to her.

“Decisions about a person’s care are driven by the clinical needs as advised by our clinicians. We do have a policy of wanting to make sure care is delivered as close to a person’s home as possible, but we would never hold up urgent care in favour of this. Especially, and definitely, where a specific level of care was required that was not available locally.

”Bay of Plenty District Health communications manager James Fuller said it would not comment on the matter, unless Ms Irwin provided written consent that they could release information on her.