An astonishing, excuse filled response from the Wanganui (or Whanganui) Hospital in response to a front page story today in the Wanganui Chronicle about some of their failures in Amanda’s care.

I have just emailed a letter to the editor of the Chronicle as below:

Dear Sir,

I wonder if I might be allowed to address a couple of points arising from your story about my sister Amanda.

I am not surprised that the Hospital would reveal confidential patient information to protect themselves – they had already threatened to do so if we told people what had happened to Amanda. But I am disappointed that Ms Black, the Hospital General Manager, chose to exaggerate or misstate the nature of Amanda’s illness, claiming she was a ‘challenging and complex mental health client,’ as if this provided an excuse for the Hospital’s failure in its duty of care to her.

Amanda is an intelligent, honest and caring woman who holds a professional degree, and is respected by colleagues and clients alike.

In her early thirties she was suddenly struck by crushing feelings of dread, hopelessness and self-loathing. From time to time these feelings were accompanied by an overwhelming urge to harm herself. Despite this, she is a straightforward and easy patient to manage. She has good insight into her illness, is absolutely honest with herself and others, and she wants to be well. If she is at risk, she says so, and will keep saying so until either she gets help, or is so completely rejected that she simply gives up. This is what happened at Te Awhina.

At one point she was told by a senior staff member that she was not at risk, because if she was serious about killing herself she would have done it already, and that there were plenty of ways to do it if she just thought about it more carefully.

As astonishing as that comment from a Te Awhina staff member was, I was even more dismayed by Ms Black’s claim regarding her repeated falls while in the wards, that staff ‘had no reason to believe she was unsteady.’

Amanda’s injuries included a brain injury, a broken neck, another break in her lower spine, and multiple fractures in her pelvis, upon which she was not supposed to put any weight. As if that were not enough to raise doubts about her ability to be steady on her feet, she had already suffered one serious fall while in the Critical Care Unit, a fall that resulted in a deep cut in her head, with so much bruising and swelling that her right eye was completely closed and her sense of vision and balance impaired. If even that was not enough to connect the dots, staff could always have read her notes, where they would, or should, have found comments from orthopedic and physiotherapy staff.

All of Amanda’s current injuries, which as well as those listed above, included a ruptured spleen, lacerated liver, lungs so badly damaged she could not breathe without assistance for two weeks, burns, fractured ribs, cuts and contusions – three separate ACC claims – were incurred while she was in the care of Wanganui Hospital. If Ms Black is serious in her claim that this constitutes ‘very good care, diligent care’ then Good Health Wanganui really does mean ‘God Help Wanganui,’ and residents would be better off taking their seriously ill loved ones to the local vet.

But of course if isn’t good quality care. It’s the Keystone Cops, and the people of Wanganui deserve better.