Death of Aucklander triggers demand for government probe

Care at Middlemore Hospital is ‘Wretched’

Venkat Raman

While former Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman refused to own responsibility for the pathetic state of affairs at Middlemore and other hospitals that are under public ownership and management, there is a growing demand among people, especially those who have used the facility for a high-level government inquiry.

“We know that the Counties Manukau District Health Board (CMDHB) runs the hospitals in the Manukau area and hence its officials, including those elected as a part of the local government, should be held responsible for the dangerous and unhealthy state of these hospitals. But the former Health Minister cannot be absolved. There must be a proper inquiry,” they said.

We present the views of two Aucklanders in this issue, with more to come.

Family in trauma

Ravi Nyayapati recounts the experience of Priya, whose husband Raj died last year.

“Anxiety, fear, trauma and eventual sorrow prevented Priya in not pursuing a complaints process for what can only be described as ‘wretched,’ the care provided by Middlemore Hospital in early 2017.  Raj had been in and out of Middlemore since December 2016.  Dealing with the lack of information provided, coupled with the rude nature of some of the staff eventually became a norm for the couple and their close family members.

“Dealing with Raj’s deteriorating health was dreadfully stressful. To add to this, the constant battle of wanting to know basic information, as well as ensuring mandatory necessities for patient comfort were met, added unnecessary anguish. While the patient was served meals and drinks, what the family needed was treatment and information.

Greedy for Oxygen?

“Classic cases of desolate actions by Middlemore staff included ridiculing Raj for being too greedy for oxygen when he was struggling to breathe and therefore asking for more oxygen.  He was denied the opportunity to have oxygen supply provided upon discharge, much to the family’s angst.  He was ambulanced back to Middlemore Hospital a few hours later, unable to breathe and with reduced saturation levels. That was his last trip; two weeks, later he passed away.

Forcing to convert

“As if all this was not enough, the Hospital Chaplain, on the pretext of offering prayer and support, started to practice Evangelism, criticising Hindu beliefs of the family and preaching that converting to Christianity would make the problems go away. Lack of proper care and information provided, coupled with complicated red tape, made the traumatic situation more distressing than it should have been,” Mr Nyayapati said.

National accused of neglect

Thakur Ranjit Singh said that the previous National government, which was in power for nine years, should be blamed for underfunded health budgets.

“With rot, mould and sewage on the walls of the Middlemore Hospital, asbestos in the maternity unit, faulty power supplies and God knows what else, the National Party has some serious questions to answer.

“Writing in the New Zealand Herald, Lizzie Marvelly rightly questioned how National could afford a tax cut when the health system was in such a dire state. Offering tax cuts as an election ploy is a bad look for National when they allowed health system to rot away and suffer acute haemorrhage.

“We need to question the credibility of Dr Coleman and probe into his dereliction of duties. If he was not aware of the issues in the health system or did not bother to inquire despite hints of the problem, then he has let us down badly. And his suitability in a lucrative job in the health sector that he let down, need to be questioned.

Dysfunctional DHBs

“It appears that some District Health Boards (DHBs) have been dysfunctional, ineffective and inefficient. They appear to lack ability to speak the truth, with a fear of not annoying the Minister-being bearer of good tidings. Credible Board members need to be aware of their fiduciary duties and responsibility.

“Among others, they need to possess aptitude on scrutiny of crucial issues, especially property, which is the life-blood of a health system. The fact that all of them failed is a symptom of acute sickness in our health system and brings into question the criteria of selection of DHBs. Racial mix in DHBs is essential to reflect the changing demography, remove cronyism and inject vigilance,” Mr Singh said.

Editor’s Note: There are many other who were ‘victims’ of the rot in Middlemore Hospital. One of them is this Reporter. More of these in our next issue.

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