A woman with terminal cancer has been moved out of a private room at an Auckland hospital so an inmate can have her bed.
Mark Leach is furious his partner, Janeen Ladd, is now in a "noisy" room with three others after being pushed out of the private one to make room for a criminal who he says is well enough to spend time discussing what he wants to watch on television.
Leach wants his partner, who is in the final stages of her illness, to have privacy while dealing with her cancer.
But the hospital says the private room is allocated on a priority basis and while it acknowledges the 49-year-old's situation, it had to make a decision based on clinical need.
Ladd, who is suffering from the effects of a significant brain tumour, was admitted to North Shore Hospital on October 8 and was put straight into a private room.
In that room Leach and her sister were able to stay with her overnight.
"She is terrified of leaving on her own, she has expressed that she wants to die with me holding her hand," Leach told the Herald.
He said a nurse came into the room several days ago and told the couple they needed to move.
"They put her in a room with three other people … at first I thought obviously someone else needed the room, a case worse than Janeen was.
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"But then I saw police and prison staff outside the door [of the private room] and worked out it was a prisoner."
Leach said he saw the inmate sitting on the bed and heard him discussing which television channel he wanted to watch with the guards supervising him.
"I understand that he needs to be looked after and he has rights - but for Janeen to be moved for him? That's extremely unethical and immoral," he said.
"She has had cancer for three years, she is in the final stage … this is disgusting, it's ridiculous."
Leach said Ladd was upset and distressed on the ward.
He said it was noisy with a flow of staff and people visiting other patients - some of whom were loud and spoke on cellphones for lengthy periods or via speakerphone.
He said at times the shared room "absolutely stunk" when visitors brought in strong-smelling food for the other patients.
"It's stressing Janeen out," Leach said.
A Waitematā District Health Board spokesman said although the hospital certainly sympathised with Ladd and her family, private rooms were allocated on a needs basis.
The inmate moved into the room was, simply, more in need of the space.
"A patient's right to privacy and dignity in the final hours of life is absolutely paramount," the spokesman said.
"We do everything within our power to ensure that any patient who is considered to be actively dying - in the last few hours of life - is placed in a private situation where every level of dignity and comfort can be provided.
"It is not our policy to relocate patients considered to be in their last hours of life to a shared space."
He said when Ladd was admitted a private room was vacant.
"And [it] was offered to her as a compassionate gesture because of its availability – not directly because of her health status," he explained.
"The situation changed four days later on Saturday 12 October when the side room was required for use by a patient who was accompanied by two officers from the Department of Corrections.
"Janeen Ladd was, at that point, moved to a four-bed room where she has received the highest possible standard of hospital care ever since.
"The needs of both patients were reviewed at the time by our clinicians and we can confirm that the right medical decisions were made."
The spokesman could not discuss the inmate's health.
"It would be completely inappropriate to disclose specific clinical details relating to those patients," he said.
"We understand the appeal of a private side-room in a hospital environment but must prioritise their use based on clinical needs and availability.
"We firmly believe that everyone has the right to best care.
"Living with a serious illness is immensely stressful for patients and their loved ones and our thoughts are with Janeen and her family at this time."
The spokesman said the DHB was working with Ladd's family to keep her medically comfortable.
They were also assisting them to find a suitable private hospital to assist with her on-going health needs once she was discharged.
Leach said the hospital's response was "rubbish".
He said the standard of care Ladd received in the ward was "well below par".
"It was obvious she was completely stressed and nobody here gave a shit," he said.