12 Apr 2023

Family fears for man waiting six months in hospital for surgery

From Checkpoint, 5:33 pm on 12 April 2023
A security guard worked at Middlemore Hospital's emergency department on Thursday last week while symptomatic with Covid-19.

Pukekohe man Arthur Brown, who has an intellectual disability, was admitted to Middlemore Hospital for hip surgery six months ago. He is still waiting for surgery and his family say his health is deteriorating. Photo: LDR / Stephen Forbes

The family of a man with an intellectual disability say he has been neglected while waiting six months in hospital for a hip operation and they fear he may even die there.  

Pukekohe man Arthur Brown, who is 58, was admitted to Middlemore Hospital in October, but his hip replacement surgery was delayed after he showed signs of an infection.

The operation has still not been undertaken but Brown has remained in hospital the entire time.

His family say he is now bedridden and his health is deteriorating as various agencies dispute who is responsible for funding his ongoing care and recovery support. 

Arthur Brown's sister, Fiona Brown, said her brother was suffering after spending half a year in hospital. 

"He went from walking to not walking in four weeks," she said.

"All the tendons in his legs have shrunk because he's never had his pain managed and he's just pulled his feet right up to his bottom because that's where he's always felt comfortable."

Fiona said Arthur was admitted to Middlemore on 13 October last year, after an x-ray at Pukekohe Hospital showed he had "extremely bad osteoarthritis".

However, during pre-surgery observation, his inflammation markers were found to be raised, she said.

"They spent like six weeks chasing this infection and running tests and x-rays and never found anything. And we just kept going, 'just do it, just do the hip'."

But instead of getting the surgery he was initially admitted for, her brother ended up with a pressure wound.

'It's a nightmare'

Fiona said her brother had lost more than 20 kilograms since being admitted - he now weighs just 45kg - and family members were constantly on site because they could not trust the hospital.

"They're all under-staffed here; I don't blame the staff because I understand they're stretch[ed], but ... when they're bringing him laxatives every day and we're telling them for days on end he doesn't need them, his bowels have moved.

"Imagine if we weren't here and they're giving this man who's [got a nasogastric feeding tube] laxatives. He would have probably died because he's [sic] just has no weight."

Fiona said Arthur's lengthy hospital stay also meant he had lost his place in the residential home where he had been a long-term resident.

"He lost his bed at IDEA Services, where he's been for 20-odd years." 

Middlemore had planned to discharge Arthur in November to give the pressure wound time to heal, she said, but the agencies responsible for his care could not agree on who would fund that, so he remained in hospital.

"This is a medical issue now. He can't go back [to his previous residence] with his medical issues caused from the hospital, so he needs to go to a private hospital."

She said no one from NASC (Needs Assessment and Service Co-ordination) ever came to see her brother before the decision not to discharge him was taken.

"[In] November last year, all we got was a decline ... We never saw a report, we never saw what what criterias he wasn't meeting for their decline. We just get told by the doctors that they had declined.

"It's just a nightmare. It's a nightmare." 

 'He's over it'

Fiona said her brother had moments where he would say something funny or start singing along to the radio, but he also asked every day if he could leave hospital.

"Every morning, as soon as his eyes are open - 'I go home today? I pack my bag, can I go home?' ... Yeah, he's just over it." 

Despite receiving a privacy waiver, Te Whatu Ora - Health New Zealand told RNZ it would not discuss a patient's health information publicly as that would be in breach of that confidential relationship.

However it said that in this particular case, it acknowledged the family's concerns and appreciated this was a very challenging situation for Mr Brown and his family to manage.

It said its teams were working incredibly hard to provide Mr Brown with the highest quality care possible and were in regular contact with Mr Brown and his family.

Te Whatu Ora said it would continue to provide Mr Brown and his family with the best care and support possible, and work hard with the family to resolve Mr Brown's complex case.