A Far North man spent six days in Whangarei Hospital, waiting to have a broken ankle attended to.

After he complained about his treatment, the district health board confirmed the long wait and issued an apology.

Otaua Valleys RLC stalwart Jimmy Croft broke his ankle playing against Moerewa on Saturday, May 6.

His ankle was X-rayed and put in a temporary cast at Kawakawa A&E, and he was advised to go to Whangarei Hospital next morning for surgery, if the swelling had reduced sufficiently.


He arrived the following morning, before 10am as suggested, to be put on standby for surgery, but was told at 6pm that he could not be fitted in. The same thing happened the next day, and the next. Sometimes, he said, he was not allowed to eat anything until 8pm.

Mr Croft was being prepared for anaesthesia late on the Thursday when the operation was postponed, and he was returned to the ward.

Jimmy Croft went into Whangarei Hospital on a Sunday and waited with his broken ankle until the following Friday for surgery. Photo / File
Jimmy Croft went into Whangarei Hospital on a Sunday and waited with his broken ankle until the following Friday for surgery. Photo / File

On Friday morning Mr Croft told a nurse that he wanted to lay a complaint. He underwent surgery that afternoon, the surgeon encouraging him to complain, to help bring attention to serious under-resourcing.

He was told there was a desperate need for more theatres, waiting rooms, beds, other facilities and personnel. Staff were being overwhelmed and were failing to cope with the frequent patient influxes.

"It wasn't the fault of the nurses. They just came to take my temperature, administer painkillers and all that stuff.

"Thing is, you don't know what is happening at the top of the chain," Mr Croft said.

He also came across an old friend who had been run over by a crane at the Marsden Point oil refinery, who said staff were trying to send him home until they could schedule surgery, but he was wanted to stay there because the hospital had railings and other facilities to enable him to get around.

He had no one at home who could help or look after him while he waited for his operation.

The Northland District Health Board concedes there have been delays to surgery procedures, and this has been an issue for months.

Spokesperson Andrew Potts said there has been a peak in acute demand over quite a number of months which often creates delay before some people receive surgery.

"We regret that Mr Croft had to wait longer than he should for his surgery and offer our sincere apology.

"We are addressing the problem via an extension of the operating suite which we hope to have completed in around 18 months," the general manager of surgical, pathology, and ambulatory services said.

"In the interim, we have converted two elective orthopaedics operating sessions to acute operating sessions, commissioned additional elective capacity in the private sector, and we are establishing an additional acute theatre on Sundays."

The board encouraged patients to be in contact directly with concerns. This can be done via the contact page on the board's website.

Meanwhile, Mr Croft is now recovering at home, still involved in keeping his forest gang running and helping manage the local league scene - from the couch.

- Northland Age