Tale of pen­sioner’s treat­ment shock­ing

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION/NEWS -

I have writ­ten be­fore about el­der abuse, but I have be­come aware of a sit­u­a­tion which really alarms me.

This did not oc­cur in the Welling­ton re­gion. My ex­pe­ri­ence here has been that the el­derly are treated with the de­gree of care they need, re­gard­less of their age or in­fir­mity.

An el­derly lady, a sprightly 80, was ad­mit­ted to a pub­lic hospi­tal for bowel surgery for can­cer and the op­er­a­tion re­sulted in a her­nia. When she ap­proached her sur­geon to have this fixed, he told her, in so many words, that be­cause of her age and the fact that she was ‘‘no longer pro­duc­tive in so­ci­ety’’, she couldn’t have the op­er­a­tion in the pub­lic hospi­tal but he would per­form the surgery if she paid.

This lady was a su­per­an­nu­i­tant, so where was she to ob­tain the thou­sands re­quired for pri­vate surgery? For­tu­nately, or per­haps un­for­tu­nately given the se­quel, a lo­cal char­ity gave the money, and the surgery was duly per­formed.

She was dis­charged from the pri­vate hospi­tal only a few hours af­ter coming round from the anaes­thetic. A few days later, she was struck with acute ab­dom­i­nal pain, fever, and fae­cal vom­it­ing (a sure sign of bowel prob­lems) and was ad­mit­ted to the A&E.

The peo­ple there were go­ing to leave her un­treated, un­til her niece, who worked in the area, did some jump­ing up and down. A CT scan showed that the sur­geon had stitched her bowel closed, caus­ing a com­plete ob­struc­tion. A sec­ond sur­geon took her to the­atre and un­did the botched surgery.

When the fam­ily com­plained to the DHB, that au­gust body up­held the sur­geon’s stance, say­ing, in ef­fect, ‘‘if you are young and work­ing, you are en­ti­tled to surgery in a pub­lic hospi­tal’’, but if you are old, for­get it!

If you are shocked by this in­ci­dent, you are not alone. For me, the most alarming as­pect is the emerg­ing ev­i­dence of the at­ti­tude of that par­tic­u­lar DHB. Once you are on su­per­an­nu­a­tion, you are ob­vi­ously viewed as su­per­flu­ous to re­quire­ments, so you can be left to suf­fer.

To say that this lady was no longer ‘‘pro­duc­tive’’ in so­ci­ety fails to take into con­sid­er­a­tion her con­tri­bu­tion to the vol­un­tary sec­tor on many fronts. But even if she were un­able to ‘‘con­trib­ute’’ in this fash­ion, be­cause of ad­vanc­ing years or ill­ness, surely her past con­tri­bu­tion would en­ti­tle her to what­ever med­i­cal as­sis­tance she might re­quire.

We are back in busi­ness this month and are pre­par­ing a good se­quence of speak­ers. This time we are be­ing joined by the longterm ad­vo­cate for lower power prices for domestic con­sumers, Molly Melhuish.

Date: Tues­day, Fe­bru­ary 12. Time: 1.30pm. Venue: The Porirua Club, Lodge Place, Porirua. Con­tact: He­len Grif­fith Phone 236 0112.

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