Waikato Hospital patient fears for pregnant nurse
A Hamilton man treated at Waikato Hospital for meningitis and shingles says he was alarmed a heavily pregnant nurse cared for him without wearing protective clothing.
Cameron Morgan said details about his condition weren't passed on to the nurse - a claim that has alarmed the country's largest nursing union.
The 21-year-old plans to lay a formal complaint with the Waikato District Health Board over his treatment.
Morgan went to the hospital's emergency department on February 18 after developing a fever, rash and nausea.
He was initially diagnosed as having tonsillitis and shingles and sent home.
However, Morgan's condition rapidly worsened and he was taken back to the hospital by his partner, Sarah Sandilands, a few hours later.
A lumbar puncture revealed Morgan had meningitis, in addition to shingles.
Morgan said during his eight-day stay at the hospital, nursing staff frequently ignored his requests for pain relief.
He and Sandilands complained to several staff about his treatment.
Waikato DHB spokesperson Lydia Aydon wasn't aware of Morgan's complaint but said he should lodge a formal complaint if he felt he hadn't received good care.
Morgan and Sandilands said they were particularly alarmed by an apparent lack of health and safety protocols at the hospital.
On one occasion, Morgan was cared for by a heavily pregnant nurse who apparently didn't know he had meningitis and shingles.
After being informed of Morgan's condition, she came back wearing a face mask, gloves and an apron.
"You could tell from the look on the nurse's face that she hadn't been told Cam had shingles or meningitis," Sandilands said.
"If something happened to her unborn child I don't want that on my conscience or on the DHB either. It was just one of a number of things that made us question what was going on at the hospital. Before they diagnosed Cam with meningitis, they had him in a room with other patients."
DHB chief nursing and midwifery officer Sue Hayward did not respond to media requests for an interview, but in a statement said the pregnant nurse may have decided to use protective equipment if she was not sure about her own chicken pox exposure.
Shingles is caused by the same virus as chicken pox.
If a person comes into close contact with someone who has not had chicken pox, then that person might develop chicken pox.
Hayward said staff follow standard precautions when treating patients so as to remove or reduce the risk of cross contamination.
If a patient is highly contagious then they are placed in isolation and an even higher level of standards are used.
"If the meningitis is bacterial then we isolate the patient in a single room and masks are used. If it is viral then standard precautions are used which do not require masks."
Morgan is currently taking anti viral medication.
Hilary Graham-Smith, associate professional services manager at the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, said it was concerning the nurse in this case appeared not to have known about the Morgan's diagnosis.
The organisation may do a follow up once it has more facts to find out whether best practice health and safety procedures for the nurse were followed.