A Napier woman falsely informed her brain aneurysm had disappeared is now filing her second lawsuit against the Hawke's Bay District Health Board this year.
The shocking discovery comes less than a month after an internal DHB investigation revealed an IT error was the cause of her late partner's year-long delay in receiving his alarming test results.
Toni Woods, a 71-year-old retired physiotherapist now running a Napier motel, was still grieving after the death of her partner, Lindsay Collinson.
She believed he would still be alive if it was not for the DHB's "stuff-up".
Collinson's test results, showing enlarged nodes in his chest and neck, were discovered more than a year after the CT scan.
Four months after the delayed results were found, he was dead. Now, she is reliving that nightmare all over again.
In May, Woods had an MRI scan at Hawke's Bay Hospital to check on a brain aneurysm that was discovered four years ago when she collapsed on a cruise ship.
Capital and Coast DHB neurosurgeon Reuben Johnson, who made the MRI referral, said, in a letter the Herald obtained, that an aneurysm less than 5mm was unlikely to rupture but there were no guarantees.
Johnson said the risk of any surgery to remove an aneurysm was usually 4 to 5 per cent.
"However, this would depend a little bit on the morphology of the aneurysm itself."
He made the referral for the scan to investigate the risks and whether the aneurysm had grown.
But the report of the scan came back stating no aneurysm could be detected despite previous scans showing one 4-5mm wide.
Auckland University of Technology professor of neurology Dr Valery Feigin said aneurysms only caused damage if they were to rupture and that usually only happened if they grew.
An aneurysm could not be missed in an MRI scan and they could not disappear without surgery, Feigin said.
Last week a manager at the DHB rang Woods about her late partner's case and encouraged her to come in for a meeting so the radiologist could apologise in person.
"I told her I was actually upset about another matter [her aneurysm] and she asked me if I would mind if she looked into it for me," Woods said.
A few days later Woods got a call from her doctor who said they had received an amended report which showed the 4-5mm aneurysm that had not grown.
"The amended report was dated the same day as the first one which was wrong."
Woods has filed a complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner and would meet a lawyer next month as she planned to take the DHB to civil court.
The Herald obtained a copy of Woods' original medical report showing no aneurysm could be detected, and the amended report received three months later identifying a 4-5mm aneurysm that had not grown in size.
Hawke's Bay DHB physician and chief medical and dental officer Dr John Gommans said the board sincerely apologised to Woods for the misreporting of her scan.
"Upon Mrs Woods alerting the DHB her scan was incorrect (7 October), her scans were re-investigated and reviewed by a senior radiologist whereupon the inconsistency was found."
"Her radiology report was then amended and re-issued (8 October). This electronic update was automatically sent to her GP which preceded the DHB's phone call to Mrs Woods to advise her of her reviewed scan result," Gommans said.
Gommans said each patient and every aneurysm was different and small brain aneurysms, such as the one Woods had, did not require treatment.
"[Woods] had been advised of this by her neurosurgeon. Monitoring with a repeat scan was requested to ensure the aneurysm was not growing in size.
"The DHB has extended its apologies to Mrs Woods and would welcome an opportunity to meet with her to allay any concerns or questions she may have about her scan and result. She also has the right to make a complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner."
The Herald spoke to well-known ACC lawyer John Miller about Woods' lawsuits against Hawkes Bay DHB and whether she had a case.
In regards to Collinson's year-long delay in receiving his test results because of an IT error, Miller said in the first instance Woods should file an ACC claim.
"That way they could independently investigate whether her partner could still be alive if it wasn't for the error."
Miller said if this could be proven, Woods could be entitled to the following:
• Five years of weekly compensation based on 60 per cent of her late partner's earnings.
• A $6000 lump sum payment.
• About $7000 to cover funeral costs.
Miller said there had been plenty of cases where a delayed diagnosis has been covered by ACC on the basis that if the cancer had been noticed that person wouldn't be dead because they would have started treatment right away.
He said if it could not be proven that Collinson could still be alive then it was unlikely she could get ACC coverage and her next option would be to sue the DHB for negligence.
In regards to the misreporting of Woods' brain aneurysm, Miller said it was unlikely she could get ACC coverage as there was no harm or financial loss.
"It would be a different story if her brain aneurysm had grown.
"Again, she could sue the DHB for negligence but the cost of that was about $20,000 and there was no guarantee any entitlement would be recovered."