A Patea woman who feared her toddler was suffering respiratory problems stormed out after enduring an eight-hour wait at Hawera Hospital.
Suzanne Phillips believes they were put through the ordeal because her son, Bernard, was a "happy-sick" child and medical staff were making assumptions.
She said it took five hours to get her child from the waiting room to an emergency-department bed, only to be left twiddling her thumbs for another three hours.
"This time last year he had whooping cough and I was concerned he had it again," she said.
"My poor son was coughing to the point he was choking."
Phillips was told there would be a "bit of a wait" before a doctor could see her because the hospital was "packed out".
"I just wanted an answer."
She said eight hours later she made a choice no parent should have to.
"I didn't really want to leave. There was that little bit of hope that they might come and see me.
"But by 9pm my son was tired and I couldn't control him because he was too upset."
Thankfully, her son's condition did not deteriorate at home, but Phillips said she wanted to tell her story to ensure it would not happen again.
"They need more staff to cope, I think. I have no idea how long I would have ended up waiting if I didn't leave."
Hawera Hospital services manager Leigh Cleland said they were sorry she had to wait that long, but her staff would have been keeping an eye on her child.
Cleland moved to reassure all South Taranaki parents that babies and young children were assessed as soon as they arrived and were then given a clinical priority.
She said staff would have been monitoring the child during what had been a particularly busy day.
"We are very sorry that the unusually busy circumstances at Hawera ED that day resulted in the very long wait time . . ." she said.
"Sixty patients were seen, which is 30 per cent more patients than we normally see in a day.
"Winter cold and flu season can mean higher presentations to ED. Unfortunately, this does have an impact on waiting times for some patients."
Cleland said this case was the exception to the rule.
"An eight-hour wait is a long time. However, at Hawera ED it is very rare . . . the average wait time is 43 minutes."
- Taranaki Daily News
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