DHB finds nurses should not have let drugged man drive

Last updated 05:00 09/04/2014

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A man left brain-damaged by a car crash after he was pumped full of drugs was failed by the nurses who let him drive, an investigation has found.

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board found multiple failings in the care of Kerry Anthony, 62, last November.

Anthony passed out and crashed his car after being discharged from Wairau Hospital in Blenheim at 10.40pm. He sustained a broken back and neck, broken ribs and head injuries.

He stills suffers from short-term memory loss, anxiety, depression and restricted movement.

The three-page DHB report sent to Anthony and wife Jackie four months later shows he was first treated by the wrong nurse.

That nurse also incorrectly dispensed medication from the emergency department, giving Anthony morphine, codeine and other painkillers.

When he was discharged, no proper consideration was given to the dangers of allowing a drugged man, with one arm immobilised, to drive off into night, the report said.

Staff did not consider whether Anthony could instead be driven home or remain at the hospital.

In subsequent interviews, staff explained that they let him drive home because he appeared "mobile, independent and comfortable", and his car was automatic.

"The significance of his prior treatment with opiates, his immobility, the potential distance to travel home, and the time of day were not fully synthesised in the clinical decision-making process, and did not protect [Anthony]."

But Jackie Anthony said the report was still "a cop-out" and did not take full responsibility for the massive effect the crash had had on their lives.

She said three medical staff were involved in her husband's care but none were named and, as far as she was aware, only one had been disciplined. "They are just running for cover."

The couple used to run a bed and breakfast from their home in the Marlborough Sounds before moving to Australia's Sunshine Coast for a lifestyle change.

In November, Anthony returned to New Zealand to get his house ready for sale. A ladder collapsed under him and he fell four metres on to a clay floor, knocking himself out.

After coming to and resting, he drove about 70 kilometres to Wairau Hospital, where his injuries were treated, before he was drugged and discharged.

On the way home, he passed out and crashed into a bridge. He subsequently spent three days in an induced coma and two weeks in the neurological ward at Wellington Hospital before being flown to Brisbane Hospital.

Because the couple live in Australia, they cannot obtain continuing ACC cover. Jackie Anthony said that, with neither of them working, and having trouble selling the house, they were struggling to survive on their retirement savings.

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Without recourse to ACC, she said she would seek compensation from the DHB. "They almost killed Kerry and created a huge financial burden and stress."

DHB associate chief medical officer David Bond has previously apologised to the couple. "No amount of apology will turn the clock back.

"However, our investigation has led to a number of recommendations that will strengthen our safe-discharge practices."

The DHB declined to comment yesterday on questions regarding compensation and staff discipline.

- The Dominion Post

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