The Health and Disability Commission is investigating the role Wairau Hospital emergency staff played in the discharge of a man left brain damaged by a car crash after he was given a combination of painkillers at the hospital then allowed to drive home.
Kerry Anthony crashed his car off the Wairau Bridge after he lost consciousness. He suffered a broken back and neck, broken ribs and head injuries.
That evening he was treated at Wairau Hospital emergency department for a broken arm after a fall off a ladder and was given a combination of painkillers.
He was discharged and allowed to drive the 70-kilometre journey to his Kenepuru home.
The commission investigation would probe if there was a breach of consumer rights and whether to take any further action against the board.
It followed a three-page Nelson Marlborough District Health Board report sent to Kerry Anthony and wife Jackie which revealed multiple failings.
Kerry Anthony was first treated by the wrong nurse. That nurse also incorrectly dispensed medication from the emergency department, giving Anthony morphine, codeine and other painkillers.
When he was discharged, no proper consideration was given to the dangers of allowing him to drive, the report said.
Staff did not consider whether Anthony could instead be driven home or remain at the hospital.
Board associate chief medical officer David Bond apologised in a letter to the couple and said the board took responsibility for any lack of care that contributed to Kerry Anthony's accident.
Speaking six months after the accident, Jackie Anthony said she understood a nurse had been suspended as a result of the case but she felt this person had been used as a scapegoat.
The board has refused to comment on the case until the conclusion of the Health and Disability Commission investigation.
"[The health board] are responsible and they have to be held responsible," Jackie Anthony said. "I don't think they believe that the combination of morphine and pills they gave him should have been a problem. That day he had fallen off a ladder and could have had delayed concussion. They should never have let him out of their sight in the first place."
Kerry Anthony said there were failings in the system.
"The DHB have wiped their hands of it, its criminal," he said.
Since the accident Kerry Anthony had suffered short-term memory loss, irritability and fatigue. He had lack of movement in his left arm and suffered numbness in his legs. His recovery would take up to two years, he said.
He has been unable to work and his wife had to leave her fulltime job to become his carer. They have struggled to get assistance from ACC because they currently live in Australia.
"Kerry gets $175 a week in unemployment benefit and we are surviving on savings for our retirement. Soon there won't be any money left," Jackie Anthony said.
The couple ran a bed and breakfast from their home in the Marlborough Sounds before they moved to Australia's Sunshine Coast.
Kerry Anthony had returned to the Sounds home to carry out maintenance and ready it for sale.
It was there that he fell 4 metres to the ground off a ladder.
After the car crash on his release from Wairau Hospital, he was airlifted to Wellington Hospital and spent three days in an induced coma and two weeks in the neurological ward before being flown to Brisbane Hospital.
- The Marlborough Express
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