A Wairoa man with a dying kidney says he was left for hours in "excruciating" pain because hospital staff judged him on his tattoos and thought he was a "junkie shopping for drugs".

Wairoa Hospital has disputed the allegations, and said after an investigation he was administered appropriate pain relief "within the first hour" of his arrival.

However, Tim Warrington, and his former colleagues who accompanied him to the hospital, said all he was given was paracetamol and buscopan over at least a 3.5-hour period.

Warrington, who was later transferred to Hawke's Bay Hospital where his kidney died as a result of a blood clot, has laid two official complaints with the hospital and has now gone to the Health and Disabilities Commissioner.

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The ordeal began on September 6, 2016, when Warrington, a travel writer, began to feel severely ill at work. Soon it became so painful he collapsed, and was crawling on the floor, "groaning".

His colleagues convinced the "stubborn" English national to go to Wairoa Hospital. His colleague Fleur Whaanga drove him there, and stayed with him for much of the afternoon and evening.

Warrington said he was taken into a ward about 3pm and seen by a nurse. From there the accounts given by Warrington and his colleague, and the hospital, differ.

Warrington and Whaanga said he was only given paracetamol and buscopan over at least a 3.5-hour period. All the while Warrington said he was in extreme pain.

"I was so concerned about him," Whaanga said. "I was pleading with the nurses to give him pain relief."

A couple of hours later they say he was seen by a doctor, and administered IV morphine an hour or two after that. Warrington said he could clearly remember the morphine being administered because the "excruciating" pain finally began to subside.

"I was also feeling so annoyed because I realised they had the ability all of that time to make the pain go away," Warrington said.

However, in the hospital investigation into the complaint and Warrington's medical records, viewed by the Herald, the hospital said Warrington was administered paracetamol, buscopan and tramadol "within the first hour" of him arriving.

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Wairoa man Tim Warrington believes he was judged because of his tattoos and staff delayed providing him adequate pain relief. Photo / Liam Clayton
Wairoa man Tim Warrington believes he was judged because of his tattoos and staff delayed providing him adequate pain relief. Photo / Liam Clayton

It said 10 minutes after his arrival he had an IV catheter inserted and blood samples taken to a lab, but both Warrington and Whaanga say that did not happen.

Medical notes also stated his pain level on arrival at 3pm was "4/10".

"There is no way I would have said it was 4/10," Warrington said. "I was in excruciating pain even before I arrived at the hospital."

At 5.15pm the notes said Warrington "still has niggly pain, definitely not as intense as it was", and that he was then reviewed by a general practitioner.

However, at 6.15pm the notes state he was "still in excruciating pain" and 15 minutes later he was given IV morphine, before another dose 40 minutes after that.

Warrington said 6.30pm was the "absolute earliest" he could have been given morphine, but he believed it was at least 7.30pm, when another colleague came to visit.

That colleague told the Herald even at 7.30pm Warrington did not have a catheter in his arm. He was also still in "extreme pain" and she did not believe he had been given morphine.

From the evening on, Warrington said the hospital notes were essentially in line with what he and Whaanga remembered.

He stayed in the hospital overnight before being flown to Hawke's Bay Hospital the following afternoon.

A CT scan later revealed he had a blood clot to his kidney - diagnosed as a kidney infarction - and he had to simply wait until his kidney died.

The pain subsided after the kidney died and he was discharged from hospital. Warrington said he has had no complications since, aside from only having one kidney.

Warrington said he accepted a kidney infarction was difficult to diagnose, but his treatment prior to then was "unacceptable".

Warrington said as he was being loaded into the plane a nurse apologised and said they had not immediately offered him pain relief or taken him seriously as they saw his tattoos - he has full arm sleeves and across his chest, some representing his Taranaki whakapapa - and thought he was a "junkie shopping for drugs".

"She said they were waiting for me to 'crack' and ask for opiates," Warrington said.

He laid a complaint with Wairoa Hospital shortly after the incident but said he never received a response.

He moved on until he read a story last year about a Wairoa woman who died after her surgery was delayed and he felt compelled to make another complaint.

This time, with a new head of the hospital, Warrington said they initially showed great concern.

However, the investigation did not address his concerns, and Warrington has since gone to the Health and Disability Commissioner.

Warrington said his main qualm was not losing the kidney, but the way he was treated and how the hospital handled his complaint.

Whaanga also disputed the hospital's report. She sensed they could have been judging him based on his tattoos.

"They were asking him a lot of questions about medications he may have been on. I was wondering what was happening, I was appalled at how long it took for them to take him seriously."

A Hawke's Bay District Health Board spokeswoman said they would not be commenting on the case while it was before the Health and Disability Commissioner.