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Too Long to Wait

Media Release 13 February 2007

Too Long to Wait

Why 12 months before there’s an improvement in the safety in our hospitals?

That’s the question from the family of a man who was mortally injured after he was left unattended and climbed out of bed at Christchurch hospital in late 2006.

David Jones’ Family is pleased the Health and Disability Commissioner is keeping alive the issue of safety in our health system however his comments this afternoon suggesting he hopes he will see some positive changes in a year is disheartening.

“How many more people will lose loved ones as a result of preventable mix ups, lack of communication and lack of resourcing in the meantime?” says Mr Jones’ daughter, Sian (pronounced Sharn).

Late in 2006, 67 year old Mr Jones suffered injuries at Christchurch Hospital and was eventually discharged to the care of Windermere Rest Home and where he was not give pain relief medication as a result of prescriptions not having been filled by the home.

“At around 4.30am on the first morning, my sister Ali received a call from our brother Huw, who had come over from Sydney and was sitting overnight with dad at Windermere, saying our father was writhing in pain and when we finally got someone from the home on the phone, they told us there was an issue with the amount he was prescribed and they could not give it to him. He was in agony and this was despite the nursing staff assuring us as late as 9pm that night that the medication was there and he would soon be getting it,” says Sian Jones.

Health and Disability Commissioner, Ron Patterson, has this afternoon highlighted his concerns about problems with medication both in hospitals and when people are transferred from hospital to rest homes (source: NewstalkZB Larry Williams 13/2/08).

Sian Jones stands by her comments last year after a report into the care (or lack of) that her father received was the same level of care would have been received at any other New Zealand Hospital. She said then, “If that’s the case, I would suggest the whole country should be extremely concerned.”

The Jones Family say the issues Mr Patterson raises are far from new and believe the time for talking has come and gone. Action is now needed, and now.


Backgrounder attached on the death of our father, David Jones.

Note: the complaints regarding care at Windermere were dealt with by the Health and Disability Commissioner in 2007 and the decision was made by HDC that there was little advantage in launching an inquiry, however several suggestions were made for an improvement in services delivered at the home.


In early July 2006, after his GP prescribed codeine for pain, 67 year old David Jones became disorientated and sedated to the point of stupor.

Although he had been living with prostate cancer for almost 14 years, prior to taking codeine on this one occasion, he had only been taking Panadol and Voltaren for pain if and when he needed it. Prior to the codeine, David Jones was an articulate, intelligent, mobile man who, among other things, often cared for his grandchildren - aged seven, three and one-year-old.

He was admitted to Christchurch hospital and soon afterwards, it became obvious to his family that his confusion, hallucinations and physical instability, meant David could injure himself, if he was left alone.

“Dad was trying to get out of bed while confused and weak on his legs, so Ali and I (supported by mum), took turns over three days, 24 hours a day, sitting with dad, to ensure his safety,” says Siân.

Fortunately Alison was on pre-arranged holiday leave and Siân's workplace was very accommodating with her request for some time off. After three days, the hospital told the family they were able to provide a "special", a dedicated, 24 hour, round the clock sitter for their father / husband. The daughters provided 24 hr contact details for themselves and reiterated that should there be any need to get in touch, for whatever reason, they were to be contacted.

Siân made it clear that she lived literally around the corner from the hospital and had made arrangements with her employer to work from home, in case she was needed at the hospital as had been the case on one previous occasion when she had been called in at 2am. Assurances were given that they would be contacted if necessary.

A few hours after the family left the hospital, Pat (David’s wife) received a phone call with the dreadful news that David had climbed off the end of his bed and fallen headfirst, causing swelling and extensive bruising. The sitter had been called away and not been permitted to return as she was required in another part of the hospital.

In the following days, weeks and months, it became obvious that this respected, retired barrister, a man described by friends and colleagues as an "absolute gentleman", would never survive this massive assault on his body.

His system stared to shut down. Not straight away, but gradually over the next 4-6 weeks. A broken femur and brain contusion, suffered when he hit the ward's concrete floor face first, meant he would never again return to his pre-hospital admission condition. What followed was a slow and undignified decent into his eventual death on September 26th, 2006.

"He had fought his cancer so bravely and selflessly”, Pat Jones says. "What happened to him is inexcusable. Everyone has the right to fight to live. Everyone has the right to expect to be safe in hospital. No-one should have to suffer particularly when an outcome is entirely absolutely preventable. This should not ever happen to anyone, ever again," she says.


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