Altrusa House a 'home away from home'

CLOSE BY: Dot Scott stayed at Altrusa House while her husband, Walter, had an operation at Nelson Hospital.
CLOSE BY: Dot Scott stayed at Altrusa House while her husband, Walter, had an operation at Nelson Hospital.

When Dot Scott's husband received life-saving surgery at Nelson Hospital, she could not face the exhausting 230-kilometres round trip each day from their Blenheim home.

The 82-year-old thought she would have to stay in a motel, costing about $90 a night, between keeping up a bedside vigil.

But she wanted to be close to her husband of 28 years who was battling cancer.

A friend recommended Altrusa House, set within the Nelson Hospital campus, for people who have to travel for treatment, patients needing minor surgery outside normal public transport times and for relatives of patients.

Her husband Walter Scott, 82, was admitted to Nelson Hospital in 2009 to remove cancer from his bowel and kidney. Two days after the complex operation he had a massive heart attack and spent six days in the intensive care unit.

Wanting to be close to her husband, Dot stayed at Altrusa House for eight days at $30 a night. "It was a home away from home," Dot Scott said.

"The benefit was I was near my husband. I had support from the hospital and I had privacy. There were other people in the same situation who could support each other which made me feel more secure. If I had stayed in a motel I would have worried more about Walter but staying at Altrusa meant I could be at his bedside within five minutes."

Launched in 1995, Altrusa House has been popular with patients and their families from Blenheim and Golden Bay who faced lengthy, gas-guzzling trips to Nelson Hospital.

The four twin rooms and two single rooms sleep 10 people and there are accompanying laundry services, a stocked kitchen for meals, a lounge area to relax in and disability access.

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board clinical services general manager Peter Bramley said it had been invaluable, especially for the families of acute patients.

"It was set up to accommodate people either pre or post treatment. If someone has had an accident their family have somewhere to stay. Most users come from Wairau district, which is the largest population centre."

Nelson Hospital only takes bookings for Altrusa House on the day a patient is admitted to hospital.

There is no maximum length of stay and users can access the house day and night.

Walter Scott is chairman of health watchdog Hospital Services Support Group.

He said a similar service should be provided in Blenheim to accommodate Nelson and Golden Bay residents.

"It is a rough road between Nelson and Blenheim if you are unwell," he said.

A board surgical review earlier this year said more surgical patients from Golden Bay may go to Wairau Hospital to get faster elective surgery.