Hospital to investigate transport complaint

A wheelchair user left shocked by a social worker's suggestion that she get a bus or pay for an ambulance home to Blenheim has lodged a complaint with the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board.

Linda Barnes, who suffers from the spinal disorder Cauda Equina Syndrome, yesterday made a complaint to the board's patient co-ordinator.

Chris Fleming, the board's chief executive, confirmed it was investigating the complaint.

Mrs Barnes, 40, was flown from Blenheim's Wairau Hospital to Nelson Hospital last Saturday.

She spent nine days in Nelson Hospital after undergoing two surgeries for a serious sinus problem.

After being discharged, Mrs Barnes, who did not have her specially adapted wheelchair with her, was told by a social worker to find her own transportation home to Blenheim.

The social worker told her that she could either get the bus or pay $750 for an ambulance.

Mrs Barnes depends on her specially adapted disability van to attend hospital appointments.

While her van sat 118 kilometres away at her home she was left at the hospital, unable to find transport.

Eventually Mrs Barnes was forced to turn to a pensioner at her church, asking them to drive her disability vehicle to Nelson and pick her up.

Mrs Barnes said the response by the social worker had shown "no empathy".

She urged the hospital board to put in place a patient shuttle service between hospitals.

A previous shuttle service was stopped in March 2012 after six months because of a lack of demand.

Mr Fleming said the board was exploring options with St John for inter-hospital transfers that might provide added options for "complex situations" like the one that was experienced by Mrs Barnes. Fairfax NZ

The Nelson Mail