Inquiry into hospital death

21:08, Nov 13 2012

The police are investigating the death of a patient after surgery at Wairau Hospital.

Detective Sergeant Jason Hillgrove, of Blenheim, said yesterday they were in the very early stages of investigating the death at the request of the coroner.

The patient died on January 17 last year.

Police had told the patient's family and Nelson Marlborough District Health Board about the inquiry, Mr Hillgrove said.

The Health and Disability Commission was doing its own investigation, which Mr Hillgrove said would be separate to the police inquiry.

A spokesman from the coroner's office said it was standard practice for police to investigate a death before an inquest.


It was unlikely an inquest would be held before the commission completed its investigation, he said.

The patient's family went to the Health and Disability Commissioner within three months of the death last year and it was understood the commissioner accepted the complaint after a meeting with them.

The health board refused to comment on the death, and the case was not on the board's annual list of sentinel events that had resulted in any harm to patients.

Health board chief medical officer Heather McPherson said in December the board had started an investigation after it received a complaint from two women who had surgery at Wairau Hospital in December 2010 and February 2011.

The investigation was prompted by two cases of an "known but uncommon complication" during the same procedure within a relatively short time, she said.

Dr McPherson declined to comment further and said yesterday it would be inappropriate for the board to discuss any issues while investigations were under way.

The two women had also complained to the Health and Disabilities Commissioner, who said in a letter last year she had referred the complaint to the Medical Council after a preliminary assessment.

The district health board is also running an investigation after the unexpected death of a patient at Wairau Hospital in May this year.

A doctor was suspended on full pay, and the board refused to comment on any aspect of the operation.

Dr McPherson declined to say yesterday whether there was any link between the investigations.

The Marlborough Express