DHB says hands are tied

Last updated 11:30 16/11/2012

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Nelson Marlborough District Health Board chief executive John Peters yesterday confirmed there is a coroner's investigation under way involving a doctor at Wairau Hospital, in Blenheim.

The board supported the doctor's decision to stand down after a patient died in May, Mr Peters said in a statement.

This follows confirmation from police on Tuesday that they are investigating the death of a patient at the Blenheim hospital on January 17 last year.

Tasman police district criminal investigations manager Detective Inspector Geoff Jago yesterday confirmed the police were in the early stages of an inquiry into a death at Wairau Hospital, at the request of the coroner.

However, the police would not be releasing any information on the scale or scope of the inquiry or the parties involved, he said.

He understood the high public interest in the inquiry but said it was not appropriate to comment further or give more detail while the matter was being investigated.

Mr Peters said the board was working within the process set out for investigations by the coroner, the Medical Council and the Health and Disability Commission.

However, the board was bound by obligations to keep any information it had private while the legal investigation was under way.

The Marlborough Express had suggested the board was stonewalling by saying it would answer questions about the inquiry within 20 working days, which is the maximum allowed under the Official Information Act.

However, Mr Peters said taking time to decide what information could be released and whether this might breach an investigation was part and parcel of the process under the act.

He also gave an assurance that the board was confident of the care it provided at the hospital.

"We believe the quality of service in Wairau Hospital to be of a good standard and have always considered the safety of patients to be our highest priority," he said.

The employment of locums to fill in for the doctor meant Wairau Hospital could keep delivering care, Mr Peters said.

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- The Marlborough Express

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