Patient in pain protests at long wait

SILENT TREATMENT: Garry Coll says the health borad has mishandled his case.
SILENT TREATMENT: Garry Coll says the health borad has mishandled his case.

A Tahunanui retiree has protested outside Nelson Hospital to get the attention he feels he's been missing from the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board.

Garry Coll, 69, has been "caught up in the hospital system" since 2009. He was leaving a supermarket with a friend when he suddenly could no longer walk.

"My leg seized up, it just stopped working and I fell over."

The former owner of Flapjacks Cafe in Bridge St was brought to the accident and emergency ward and stayed in hospital one week. He was treated for degeneration in his back, but Mr Coll says the diagnosis did not explain the symptoms in his leg, which continue intermittently.

He also spent time in the hospital in March for an operation on his prostate, and remains plagued with pain in his groin.

As a result of these two situations, he has experienced "continual pain" for the last three years. He has used crutches to get around since 2010, and his ability to travel is limited by the fact that he cannot sit for more than 10 minutes at a time.

Mr Coll said the symptoms had changed his life significantly. He had sold his house and bought a campervan shortly before the 2009 attack, intending to spend his retirement travelling the country at his leisure.

He now lives in the campervan at Tahuna Beach Holiday Park.

"It's just hopeless, eh. I've got no quality of life."

He said he was unsatisfied with the length of time he had to wait for diagnostic tests and appointments through the public system. In the most recent example, Mr Coll said it had taken him three months to get an appointment to see a doctor.

He said he was told it would be another six months before he could have an MRI scan, and a further three months for a follow-up consultation.

"It'll be a year on and I'll be exactly back where I am."

Mr Coll said he felt the hospital had been irresponsible in its handling of his case: "Nobody's taken any ownership of my problem." He said he had written to NMDHB chief executive Chris Fleming twice, and stood outside the hospital's main entrance on Tipahi St with several homemade signs yesterday.

Asked what he wanted to happen, Mr Coll said he would like a DHB representative to sit down with him and discuss a treatment plan which would address his problems within the next few months.

Mr Fleming said the DHB responded in writing to Mr Coll on Friday, saying the letter covered most of the issues he had raised with the Nelson Mail. A response from the orthopaedics department would be on its way to him shortly.

As of yesterday, Mr Coll had not received either letter.

Mr Fleming acknowledged that the DHB's MRI timeframes needed to be reduced, saying access to MRIs would improve over the next few months with the help of the Ministry of Health.

He said Mr Coll's clinical priority had been reviewed and confirmed, saying the DHB had to provide support based on clinical priority. "All patients are clinically assessed and the most urgent are seen first, we cannot make exceptions."