Ardern says hospital pressured granddad to leave. Don't bring him into it, says minister
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has criticised Labour leader Jacinda Ardern for bringing her 85-year-old grandfather into the political debate.
"I think it's a bit edgy, bringing close family into the political debate," Coleman said when asked about the situation.
"That's generally something we don't do as politicians."
Ardern revealed at political rally in Nelson on Wednesday that her maternal grandfather was asked to leave a crowded Waikato Hospital on Tuesday night before he was ready.
Staff tried to discharge him at 11.30pm but he refused and was allowed to stay the night, she said.
Yesterday, Waikato Hospital said it had hit capacity with non-emergency elective surgeries cancelled and patients sleeping in corridors on Monday night.
"We will be taking only emergencies today in the emergency department," emergency department specialist Dr Andrew Wilde said in a video posted online. "Anyone who presents with a non-urgent problem will be asked to go and see their general practitioner or a local accident and medical centre, or must be prepared for a long wait."
Ardern spoke about what she understood had happened to her maternal grandfather.
"My understanding, from what I gleaned from my family this morning, is that my grandfather was admitted into hospital, and again as I say, I do not blame the health service for this, I blame the fact that we are stretched because there is under-funding of the Waikato DHB.
"They tried to discharge him at 11.30 last night. That simply wasn't possible. He's 85-year-old, there wasn't the ability to transport him home at that time of night, and so he did remain there.
"And I thank the workers in that system for the support they've given my grandfather and my family, but for me, that was about highlighting what this election should be about, and that's improving health services.
"It's not about me. It should be about people who need those services."
Asked whether it was a case of a lack of beds, and whether someone else was kicked out so he could have their bed, she said she could "only assume that that would have been the case".
In a statement, Waikato Hospital Services executive director Brett Paradine said he was unable to comment on individual patients.
Waikato Hospital had been full for the past few days and its emergency department tipped into overloaded.
"The hospital is now back on track but still very busy, as is our emergency department," Paradine said.
He said it was the hospital's expectation not to discharge anyone without first making a clinical assessment to confirm they were safe to discharge and appropriate supports were in place.
"We are sorry that this experience has caused concern for the family and we would be happy to talk to them and look into the circumstances around this situation."
Coleman said the DHB was entitled to have a discussion with a patient as to whether they felt they were able to go home.
"But they would never discharge someone who doesn't have the right accommodation or travel in place, they just would not do that," he said.
"If they don't, they'd stay there overnight."
If a patient wanted to stay in hospital, they had every right to stay, he said.
"The DHB, it just makes sense to have those commonsense conversations with patients but it's not in the context of pressuring anyone to go home."
Coleman said for a period on Monday the hospital was full.
"It's been a very busy flu season and that does happen for time to time. But the key thing is the hospital is able to cope. There's no question about that."