27-hour wait with a broken arm

Hospital puts six-year-old on 27-hour hold

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 10/06/2014
reuben fey
EVA BRADLEY/Fairfax NZ

PAINFUL WAIT: Reuben Fey back home with mum Michelle yesterday, after waiting 27 hours for surgery on his broken arm at Hawke’s Bay Hospital.

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A 6-year-old with two broken bones in his arm had to wait 27 hours for surgery - and his mother says he could have waited even longer if she hadn't threatened to "throw my toys out of the cot".

Reuben Fey broke both bones in his lower right arm, the ulna and radius, when he fell off a flying fox at his Taradale school about 11am on Wednesday.

He was admitted to Hawke's Bay Hospital about midday. His mother, Michelle, said she was told he would get surgery that afternoon, then the next morning.

It wasn't until she demanded he be seen that surgery was finally performed, at 3.30pm the next day.

"I was just mortified and beside myself that they could leave a 6-year-old in pain and be that unorganised that they could not get it done. It's just not right," she said.

"I get that there are priorities and some people have to wait, but 27 hours was just too much."

When Reuben arrived in hospital, his arm was X-rayed and "we were told that, because he had just eaten, he could not have surgery until around 4-5pm. That seemed perfectly reasonable," Fey said.

He was given morphine and transferred from the emergency department to the children's ward. About 5.30pm, Fey was told he would not have surgery until the next day.

"That night was hideous. He was in so much pain. He hardly slept."

On Thursday morning she was told he would be second on the list of operations that day.

Nurses, who Fey said were "fantastic", made numerous inquiries to find out when Reuben might have surgery, but no time was given.

"It got to early afternoon and still nothing. Then they told us he needed to be fed, meaning he wouldn't be able to have surgery until Friday.

"About 3pm I'd had enough and said, ‘No, he needs surgery now. I'm not having another night of that much pain.'

"It was ridiculous. He's 6. I warned a nurse that, if it didn't get done, I would throw my toys big time. She understood completely."

A short time later, a house surgeon came to see Fey and apologised for the delay, and said Reuben was next on the list.

The day before Reuben was admitted, Health Minister Tony Ryall announced there had been 27 more doctors employed by the Hawke's Bay DHB since 2008.

"It doesn't seem to have made much of a difference," Fey said.

DHB service director surgical services Becky Olson said Reuben's surgery did not take place on Wednesday because he had to wait six hours after eating, and that would have made it outside normal hours.

"As a rule", only life-threatening conditions received surgery outside those hours.

An emergency caesarean and a patient requiring surgery to control blood loss became priorities on Thursday, meaning Reuben could not be seen until mid-afternoon.

"It must be stressed that life-threatening surgeries will always take precedence over non-life- threatening surgeries.

"The DHB would like to apologise if Michelle feels that she was not adequately informed about what was happening."

Fey said she would be making a formal complaint to the DHB "once I'm a bit less exhausted".

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- The Dominion Post

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