The family of a former school principal who died after a short, painful battle with colon cancer is demanding an independent investigation over his care at two Bay of Plenty hospitals.

Te Puke nurse Michelle Taylor is questioning why Bay of Plenty District Health Board staff first failed to pick up the condition that eventually killed her father, Ian Taylor, in May last year.

She said she was appalled at his treatment and accuses staff of botching appointment dates, leaving vomit-stained blankets by the bedside and mistaking the side effects of a painkiller for senility.

Her battle was revealed a day after the Government released its Sentinel report into serious and preventable incidents in public hospitals last year.


In March last year, the 77-year-old had just surprised his wife Jan with a cruise holiday to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary when a bout of kidney pain brought him to his GP.

At Tauranga Hospital, a CT scan revealed his bowel wall was thickening - but doctors decided to wait until his renal failure had been resolved.

Ms Taylor said it was three weeks before her father was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Soon after, the DHB mistakenly placed Mr Taylor on a semi-urgent waiting list and when the date of his operation was brought forward, no explanation was offered, she said.

Her father was rushed to hospital again when, in "excruciating pain", he began vomiting faeces. They waited at Tauranga Hospital's emergency department for three hours.

The next day, the family were told Mr Taylor's right colon was so inflamed it was about to perforate and required urgent surgery.

Recovering in a ward later, a blanket he had vomited on was left at his bedside until family members removed it, Ms Taylor said.

Later, when her father was confused, her brother asked a nurse about the drugs he had been given, she said.

"She commented that they thought he had senile dementia and she asked my brother, 'oh, isn't he always like this?"'

The family were told on May 6 that nothing more could be done for him, and he was moved to a hospice, where he died peacefully two days later.

"We did not want him to die in Tauranga Hospital." Her family had been "devastated" by the ordeal.

"Dad was just a rock. He said his mother had died at the age of 97, and he had expected to die at the age of 97 ... so his life was cut short by 20 years."

Ms Taylor said Health Minister Tony Ryall had ordered an investigation and was unsatisfied with the DHB's response, which included an apology from board chairwoman Sally Webb. She planned to complain to the Health and Disability Commissioner.

DHB governance and quality general manager Gail Bingham said the case was thoroughly investigated.

"It was determined that even though there was a delay, it would not have ultimately changed the outcome."