Four-hour wait to get stitched up

Last updated 12:00 25/05/2013

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A Levin man is furious he was left for hours "bleeding like a stuck pig" because there were no ambulances or doctors available to treat him.

Doug Mercer had to wait two hours for an ambulance last Sunday after he cut his fingers badly while fixing a clothesline.

"I slipped off a ladder while trying to fix [it] and my fingers wrapped on to the wires," he said. "My fingers were bleeding like a stuck pig."

When Mr Mercer rang the ambulance about 1pm, he was told there would be a two-hour delay as his case was non-urgent.

Mr Mercer said he would have gone directly to the Horowhenua Health Centre if it was open on Sundays.

"The biggest thing we are concerned about was there were no doctors on a Sunday," he said.

"I couldn't go to the health centre, which I think is wrong."

MidCentral District Health Board chief executive Murray Georgel said Palmerston North Hospital had the only emergency department in the district.

"The Horowhenua Health Centre has in it a general practice; there is only one emergency department and that is [Palmerston North Hospital]," he said.

"Anyone outside of Palmerston North and those within it who need emergency access have to come to this particular site and that is the case no matter where you live within the MidCentral district."

Mr Georgel said it wasn't feasible to have emergency departments scattered across the region.

"There has never been an [running] emergency department in Levin, not even when the hospital was there," he said.

Mr Mercer was assessed by St John staff and taken to the Horowhenua Masonic Village retirement community.

But a medical professional there referred him to Shannon, 10 minutes away.

"We went to Shannon by private car and waited another two hours.

"The doctor there put three stitches in each finger," Mr Mercer said. "The ambulance offered to drive me to Shannon but we would have had no way of getting home."

Mr Mercer said he had no qualms with the St John staff but the delay was "terrible".

St John district operations manager Steve Yanko said information provided by Mr Mercer and his partner provided an assessment of non-life-threatening injuries.

"[Upon assessment] the patient . . . was advised the injuries did not require hospitalisation but the ambulance crew could transport them to a Levin healthcare centre where they could see a doctor if they felt that this was necessary," Mr Yanko said. "[There] the St John paramedics and the patient and their partner were advised that no doctors were available in Levin and the closest doctor on call was at the Shannon Health Centre."

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- Manawatu Standard

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