Hospital followed the rules

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 05:00 08/01/2014

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Christchurch Hospital has defended denying an unwell German tourist a bed for the night.

The tourist was attacked and robbed on the street after being turned away.

Canterbury District Health Board executive director of nursing Mary Gordon said it was "standard practice" to discharge patients assessed as medically fit.

The hospital lacked the resources to take responsibility for finding people a place to stay, she said.

Soenke, 20, who did not want his surname used, was treated and discharged about 11pm last Friday after arriving by ambulance from Kaikoura for a potentially serious eye infection.

Unable to find accommodation and refused permission to sleep in the emergency department reception area, Soenke was attacked and robbed by three men about 1.30am while he was Skype-calling his parents at the central city bus exchange.

Her story attracted widespread comment from Press readers, most of whom agreed the hospital was not a hotel, but felt Soenke could have been helped to find accommodation - from either hospital staff or the receptionist at the full hostel who turned him away.

Gordon said she sympathised with Soenke.

However, the hospital's emergency department dealt with 200 to 300 patients each day and was particularly busy late at night.

"Under those conditions people who require medical attention must always be our first priority.

"Once people have been assessed as medically fit and no longer in need of urgent care, our standard practice is to discharge them.

"We recognise that this can present problems late in the evening or during the night in particular and they will usually be given advice on transport home or where to get accommodation as occurred in this instance.

However, resourcing does not allow us to take responsibility for people finding somewhere to stay."

Soenke, whose cellphone was among the items stolen, could not be reached for a response yesterday.

Hospitality Association Canterbury president Peter Morrison said an accommodation provider would not normally turn away a traveller late at night without helping them find somewhere to stay.

Meanwhile, police are reviewing security footage from the bus exchange area in a bid to identify the offenders.

Detective Sergeant Joel Syme said investigators also planned to visit bars in the area last night to source any other security footage.

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- The Press

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