Cancer patient told hospital would rather spend money on others
A woman with terminal cancer says she was told by medical staff the hospital would rather spend its money on people they could actually help.
Alison MacKenzie was shocked to learn she had bowel cancer after multiple doctor's visits left her with no indication anything was wrong.
MacKenzie, 44, was told she had weeks to live, before being turfed out and then told chemotherapy should be for people they could actually help.
The Palmerston North woman was left in the dark and unsure if she would live to see her son's 5th birthday.
MidCentral District Health Board has refused to offer any explanation, but it has done a U-turn by offering her chemotherapy.
Alison MacKenzie's husband Dion said the experience had rocked their faith in the health system.
"You have this belief in the system that you think has got your back and is looking after you."
MacKenzie first noticed something was wrong in 2013, when she was in so much pain she had to go to the Palmerston North Hospital emergency department.
She was given morphine and the pain largely subsided, though some rectal bleeding still occurred.
Since 2013 she visited doctors and was subject to various tests and given different treatments, but at no point until 2017 did anyone offer testing for cancer.
"No-one said anything; you'd think they put the pain and the bleeding together," Alison MacKenzie said.
She was repeatedly told it would not be cancer, because she was too young..
Earlier this year, she returned to the ED and was discharged. She returned a week later because the pain was so bad.
"It was not getting better and I thought this is just ridiculous."
She was about to be sent home again but her mother protested and asked for X-rays and scans to be done.
That scan revealed the bowel cancer, which had spread to 70 per cent of her liver.
"I just started crying, because I knew, before [the nurse] even told me."
She was then discharged and told she had "several weeks" to live and to "go enjoy last moments with family".
MacKenzie said she was offered no support or explanation of what several weeks meant.
When she returned to hospital a doctor told her she was not on the high priority list and they would rather put money towards people they could help.
She was also told chemotherapy would not be a good option for her as it would be like putting Roundup on a garden. Other weeds would replace the ones killed off.
Subsequent appointments with an oncologist had been more positive and she had started chemotherapy.
"People need to be aware if they have an inkling that something is wrong and people are telling you there is nothing wrong, seek that second opinion, for goodness sake," Dion MacKenzie said.
He was upset no-one looked into her history and put it all together.
"You can't be under the assumption that they're doing the right tests."
The couple are hoping to do a family trip together in Australia to create memories for their younger children and a Givealittle page has been set up to help fundraise.
MidCentral was given a week to respond, but refused to answer questions.
Instead, it sent a statement from specialist community and regional services operations director Nicholas Glubb.
Glubb said staff had an initial conversation with MacKenzie and would be meeting again with her and her family.
MidCentral gave no response to questions about the handling of MacKenzie's case and whether the hospital did all it could to detect her cancer earlier.