Hospital staff dump Christchurch man Neil Jones at bus stop in 'appalling' failure of care

Neil Jones died after what the coroner called an "appalling" failure of care by the Canterbury District Health Board in 2013.
SUPPLIED

Neil Jones died after what the coroner called an "appalling" failure of care by the Canterbury District Health Board in 2013.

A dying man was discharged to a bus stop wearing pyjamas because Christchurch Hospital staff felt he was a "nuisance" and "faking" his illness. 

Neil David Jones, 47, then lay on the footpath for six hours while members of the public tried to get doctors to help him. He was eventually trespassed from the hospital and taken to a shelter, where he vomited blood.

An ambulance took him back to hospital, where he died two days later. 

Dr Richard Gearry discharged Neil Jones, despite him being yellow from jaundice and defecating in his clothes, thinking ...
SUPPLIED

Dr Richard Gearry discharged Neil Jones, despite him being yellow from jaundice and defecating in his clothes, thinking he was "looking for a free ride".

The coroner has blasted Jones' care as an "appalling" failure, while his angry family say he was treated "worse than an animal".

"You wouldn't treat a dog like that would you," his mother, Joan Jones, said. 

Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) chief executive David Meates, who has apologised personally to Jones' family, admitted Coroner Michael Robb's findings made for "sobering reading".

Canterbury District Health Board chief executive David Meates has apologised to Jones' family and said Christchurch ...
DAVID WALKER/STUFF

Canterbury District Health Board chief executive David Meates has apologised to Jones' family and said Christchurch Hospital has since "improved systems and processes".

The findings said Jones was admitted to Christchurch Hospital on October 8, 2013. He was jaundiced and severely unwell due to a long battle with alcoholism. 

Doctor Richard Gearry, Jones' physician for his last days, determined he was well enough be discharged 20 days later, on October 28, despite remaining jaundiced. He had suffered bouts of diarrhoea and vomiting throughout his hospital stay. 

Jones had defecated on his clothes, so was put in hospital pyjamas before security staff wheeled him from the building.

Neil Jones with his daughter, Caitlin.
SUPPLIED

Neil Jones with his daughter, Caitlin.

He had nowhere to be discharged to, so was dumped at a nearby bus stop on Oxford Tce.

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For six hours, Jones lay on the footpath and on the road metres from the hospital door.

Several members of public asked hospital staff to help him.

Security staff checked on Jones every hour and were told to tell people he "had been checked and that he was fine".

He was eventually taken back to Christchurch Hospital's Emergency Department (ED) where no further medical assessment was done.

Police were called to remove him from the waiting room and security formally trespassed him from the hospital.

"The very firm position of security was that Neil was faking his illness," Coroner Robb said. 

Police officers carried him into the Christchurch City Mission, where staff were very concerned for his health. Reluctantly, they took him in.

Within hours, Jones was vomiting blood and was taken back to hospital by ambulance.

At 7am on October 30, Jones died.

Coroner Robb determined his cause of death was alcoholic liver disease.

"His discharge, resulting lack of medical evaluation and treatment, coupled with what took place for Neil through 28 October until he was readmitted to hospital that night may not have caused his death, but did not enhance his chances of survival," Robb said in his findings.

While Robb hesitated to blame any one individual, Dr Gearry's determination "in large part led to the manner in which Neil was dealt with from that point through to his being returned to the hospital".

Nurses told Gearry that Jones' breath smelled "faecal", he had not eaten for three days, and severe constipation might be affecting his mental and physical state.

He was seen walking in the ward in "net underpants", having soiled his clothes the morning he was discharged.

Regardless, Gearry was convinced Jones was faking parts of his illness, including his incontinence, and was "looking for a free ride".

Coroner Robb said the picture of Jones lying on the ground outside the hospital in public view, wearing hospital clothing was "an appalling one".

"An orderly brought him into the hospital ED (emergency department), yet no medically trained person took responsibility to assess Neil's health," he said.

"Regardless of an earlier determination by a doctor that he be discharged, in my view, processes should have been followed to ensure someone in Neil's position would be medically assessed [in the future]."

Robb criticised police for their lack of investigation into the circumstances that led to Jones' trespass from the hospital, including why his conduct was a "nuisance" to patients and staff.

"I would have expected the police to have critically evaluated their own decision-making and analysis of the circumstances … to ensure that they are not, in the future, unthinkably involved in transporting an unwell person away from a hospital," he said.

A police spokesman said "decisions made by police at the time were based on the information provided to officers at the hospital".

CDHB's Meates said he had personally apologised to Jones' family "for the failings in CDHB's care of Mr Jones".

"As a system we failed Neil, in not providing the level of care and treatment he needed," he said.

"When significant failures in care occur, as they have in this case, we can look back and identify many things we would do differently."

Meates said systems at the time "didn't support staff to do the right thing".

"I am satisfied that the extent of changes made are such that our improved systems and processes would not allow a repeat of the unfortunate chain of events which prevented Mr Jones from receiving further medical treatment sooner, and didn't allow him to die with dignity."

Stuff understands Gearry is still employed by the CDHB.

Karen Jones said the family was "pretty disgusted" with the way her brother was treated. 

"It was the way they just threw him out and discarded him, they treated him worse than an animal. It was just disgusting and appalling."

While the CDHB had made changes, it was too late. 

"I don't think it's ever going to be enough for what they did," she said. 

Joan Jones said she was "disgusted" by the way her son was treated.

While he was "no perfect person", he loved his children.

They were aged 14 and 9 when he died. Their mother died in 2008.

"They went in and saw him in hospital before he died and to see him like that was not something children should have to see," she said. 

 - Stuff

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