A man who was hours away from getting a life-saving kidney transplant from his brother, who had raced across the globe to donate, has been told his surgery is cancelled because of a nursing shortage at Auckland City Hospital.
Auckland District Health Board has apologised for the cancellation, saying: "We have needed to make some difficult decisions regarding the prioritisation of our clinical staff."
Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield told media today he was aware of the case and "clinicians were looking into it".
Chris Hunter, 54, is fighting for his life, with 6 per cent renal function.
His older brother had travelled from South Africa to save his life.
The operation couldn't go ahead because many nurses are in isolation amid the Delta outbreak.
"This is literally life or death, it's a life-saving surgery and we don't know how much time we've got ... there was no care plan, nothing," Hunter told the Herald last night.
Hunter has been waiting 18 months for a kidney transplant and in that time his renal function has gradually deteriorated to a life-threatening level.
The DHB had supported his brother getting a spot in MIQ during the Delta outbreak and he couldn't believe it when the surgery was cancelled, Hunter said.
At 1pm on Tuesday, Hunter said, he got a text from the DHB confirming the surgery had been signed off at the highest level. Three hours later he got a call to say it was cancelled as they didn't have enough speciality nurses across the hospital.
"Then I got a call from the surgeon saying he was ready to go and happy to do it but they'd been advised it couldn't go ahead because so many nurses were having to stand down due to isolation.
"It's a hospital and they don't have the nurses. Where do the sick people go if there are no nurses?" Hunter said.
He said the whole process had been emotional and incredibly frustrating.
"On the telly we are hearing the hospitals are okay, but that's not true. The biggest frustration has been they I've been told my critical surgery is cancelled but there's no patient plan or time frame, nothing. I don't even know what the next steps even are."
His sister-in-law Louise said the family had been to hell and back and paid for Shane, their brother, to come out to donate his kidney.
"We were told the surgery was a priority and two days ago told was signed off at the highest level. Only a few days ago Ashley Bloomfield assured us all that priority surgeries are still going ahead," he said.
The Ministry of Health's acting chief medical officer Dr Andrew Connolly said he was aware of the nursing shortage causing problems and the ADHB's transplant team were required to prioritise transplants from deceased donors, which led to delays.
"The ministry acknowledges that any delay or postponement to planned care appointments can be upsetting and inconvenient for the people involved and for their wider whānau," Connolly said.
He said they would re-schedule "planned living related donor cases as clinically appropriate".
In a statement from Auckland DHB, it said: "We are sorry we needed to move Chris' surgery and understand how disappointing this will have been for himself and his family.
"We're currently responding to a Covid-19 outbreak in the community. We have a large number of staff who are isolating due to being potentially exposed to Covid-19 at locations of interest, as well as many staff who have been redeployed to focus on our Covid-19 response.
"This means we have needed to make some difficult decisions regarding the prioritisation of our clinical staff and the clinical care we deliver.
"'Postponing a patient's surgery is something we never take lightly and we will be rescheduling Chris' surgery as soon as we can."