SDHB apology little comfort to kidney patient

The Southern District Health Board has apologised to a patient whose right kidney "died" after a registrar misread his symptoms and accused him of being on drugs.

Dunedin man Matthew Brown said the apology did not make up for the "incompetence". He believed patients who suffered major mishaps should be compensated.

He lost the function of his right kidney because of the delay diagnosing renal infarction.

Renal infarction happens when blood flow to a kidney is blocked by a clot.

Mr Brown went to the Dunedin Hospital emergency department in June with severe abdominal pain and was given morphine, but the pain persisted.

Mr Brown said a registrar, who was not sure what was wrong, was "adamant" he must have taken drugs. Mr Brown said the registrar turned down a nurse’s suggestion to order a CT scan. An X-ray and an enema were performed.

"There is no doubt that if he had listened to the nurse and he had got the CT scan, my right kidney would have been saved."

He was admitted to a ward, but a doctor there had "no clue what was wrong with me".

He was given laxatives and painkillers.

He had the CT scan on Monday night, after more than three days in hospital. By then, three-quarters of his kidney had stopped functioning as an artery was blocked.

A doctor wanted to revive the kidney but a specialist told him it was a "waste of time".

"They had to keep giving me painkillers while my kidney died.

"There is no doubt that I lost my kidney through the incompetence of the doctors when a simple CT scan on Friday night or Saturday could have saved my kidney."

In their August 11 letter, medical directorate general manager Janine Cochrane and medical director Dr Belinda Green apologised to Mr Brown for the CT scan and diagnosis delay.

"We are sincerely sorry that your time in ED was so concerning to you. Whilst we cannot do anything to remedy the events you describe, we do hope that this response reassures [you that] your feedback is valued and has been taken very seriously," the pair wrote.

Renal infarction was so rare most doctors never encountered one.

"Unfortunately kidneys are very sensitive to loss of blood supply and they stop working within a few hours of this situation occurring."

The pair suggested the confusion was partly because Mr Brown had recently been prescribed codeine after an unrelated operation, and its side effects included abdominal pain.

The ED registrar had had "serious cause for thought and reflection" and was apologetic, as were a specialist and another staff member about their dealings with Mr Brown.

The case was being used in ED teaching sessions to ensure the same thing did not happen to another patient.

The DHB told the Otago Daily Times it did not wish to comment further on the case. 



Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter