26 Jul 2017

Surgery delays: 'I was prepped three times and bumped'

11:12 am on 26 July 2017

A man whose open heart surgery at Dunedin Hospital was delayed three times says he waited a month, and others six weeks, because of the number of traffic accidents the intensive care unit had to deal with.

More than 3000 people work at Dunedin Hospital.

There are plans under way to develop Dunedin Hospital but not enough intensive care beds in the meantime, the Southern DHB chief executive has admitted. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

At least three other patients have missed out on life-saving surgery, family members have said, because of a shortage of intensive care beds at the hospital.

The Southern District Health Board has admitted the shortage, but said it was not aware of any patients dying as a result.

Allan Sutton told Morning Report he needed immediate surgery when he was diagnosed with his heart problem.

"I was prepped three times and bumped, and then they prepped me a fourth time and they operated on a Friday, which they ordinarily don't do," he said.

"I was there a month waiting and I was in a ward of four guys, and some of them had been in there for six weeks."

He said people being badly injured in traffic accidents had delayed the surgeries.

"This was mid-February and what you've got to understand is there's so many traffic accidents, and when an emergency happens, they've got to be operated on, and they take the ICU beds.

"The ward I was in was below the helipad so every night you would hear these rescue helicopters landing.

"The first morning I woke up in my room, the guys there they had a standing joke saying 'bump, bump'."

The DHB's chief medical officer, Nigel Millar, told Morning Report he had not been told of any patients dying due to the shortage, but would look closely at the matter.

Dr Millar said the hospital deeply regretted having to cancel and delay surgeries.

"We have a significant number of patients who go beyond what'd be the expected waiting time for cardiac surgery.

"We really want to get people operated on within a month, and ideally within two months, but have people who've gone beyond that month and that's really not appropriate.

"We really want to work hard to improve that."

Donna Ballantyne told Checkpoint with John Campbell yesterday her 68-year-old father, Owen Glover, died at his Mosgiel home alone, while waiting for surgery after his appointment was postponed for a fourth time.

Kelly Gibbs said her teenage daughter, Amber, who has severe disabilities, had her surgery cancelled as she was being wheeled into theatre, because a young man had suffered a heart attack.

Merv Telfer's heart bypass surgery had been postponed seven times, his family said, after it was first scheduled in May.

DHB chief executive Chris Fleming said the number of intensive care beds had increased from six to eight, and the hospital was set to have two more by August 2018.

He said plans to redevelop the hospital were under way but admitted there were still not enough beds.

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