Patrice Dougan

Patrice Dougan is a NZME. News Service reporter based in Auckland.

Elderly woman's concerns 'not listened to properly' before death - coroner

Wellington Hospital. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Wellington Hospital. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The concerns of an elderly woman who died of blood poisoning in Wellington Hospital were not properly listened to by medical staff, a coroner has ruled.

Rose Regan, 76, of Crofton Downs, died of septicaemia, following a hip replacement operation, in November 2011.

Her family are considering laying a complaint with the Health and Disability Commissioner after raising concerns about her medical care at her inquest, which the coroner agreed were "not adequately answered".

These included an infection which the family said was not treated, and a dislocated hip which went undetected by hospital staff for at least two weeks. Her family also questioned staff about Mrs Regan's foot being rotated outwards by 90 degrees, and the pensioner herself asked nurses why her new hip "clicked" when she tried to move.

"This was met with shrugged shoulders and no suggestions to follow up," the family said.

Mrs Regan was admitted to Wellington Hospital in August 2011 for hip replacement surgery following a fall. She spent a month in hospital before being moved to Kenepuru Hospital for rehabilitation and physiotherapy.

On October 4 an x-ray showed she had a dislocated right hip and she was transferred back to Wellington Hospital, where she underwent surgery to fix the problem.

A month later, on November 24, Mrs Regan vomited blood in what was described as an "acute" incident, and died five days later.

During her time at Kenepuru Hospital, Mrs Regan's wound was said to be infected and she developed a severe inflammation in her right knee.

The inquest heard from consultant physician Dr Mark Weatherall, that Mrs Regan's wound had been noted to be oozing, and she was monitored closely. Her medical notes of September 22 state it was "healing nicely" and there was "no evidence of infection".

Mrs Regan received continuous antibiotic therapy between August 15 and September 20, he said.

It was not possible to know exactly when the hip dislocation could have happened, Dr Weatherall said, describing the 76-year-old as "difficult to evaluate because of her very swollen legs".

He said Mrs Regan's rotated foot had been recorded, but was "felt to be a consequence of recent hip replacement rather than a sign of dislocation", adding that it was "very common" for patients to have rotated or shortened legs in such instances.

There was no mention in her medical records of family raising concerns about her hip clicking.

Wellington regional coroner Ian Smith said in general he accepted the Capital and Coast District Health Board had provided "adequate" medical care to Mrs Regan, but said her case "again ... highlights for me the essentiality that medical practitioners listen to the issues and concerns of the family and patient".

"I have raised this in other findings and I will continue to do so until I am satisfied that a satisfactory standard has been observed," he said.

"Even in this case the questions posed by both the family and reiterated by me, still to a degree, had not been initially adequately answered by the medical personnel."

- APNZ

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