Apology for Dunedin man who suffered in agony after knee surgery

Nursing shortages were responsible for substandard care which left him in pain and with a post-operative infection, Dunedin man Stephen Watt says.

Watt was admitted to the hospital’s third floor surgical ward 11 months ago for a knee reconstruction.

What should have been a straightforward operation turned into a nightmare, for which the Southern District Health Board has profusely apologised.

Watt said he was satisfied with the board’s investigation and subsequent apology, but had decided to tell his story because he believed a shortage of nurses had caused the problems he had endured and that the problem had not been addressed.

“There were only two nurses on to look after 54 patients, they were young nurses and inexperienced,” he said.

“I think I need to tell my story for other people, I wouldn’t send anyone to that hospital after the care I received in that particular ward … it’s about the number of nurses to patients and not being able to give them the professional time to nurse them back to health.”

As well as a serious infection, Watt had pain relief medication prescribed which was never given to him, he was not assisted to shower, and toileting needs were not attended to.

“I was stressed, I had no sleep and I wasn’t eating … these young nurses were put in a position where they had all these people to look after and they didn’t have time to get to know the patients.”

Watt, who said his care after arriving home was also problematic, needs a follow-up operation, which will be performed at a different hospital.

In its apology letter to Watt and his wife, director of surgical nursing Sharon Jones said Watt’s experience would have been distressing and that she was disappointed his care had not been of the highest quality.

Watt had raised valid concerns and the SDHB was reviewing core nursing levels.

“It is likely that this analysis will lead to an increase in nursing staff.”

Two different investigations were held into Watts’ case, which found that he did not receive timely care, his pain was inadequately managed, and that nurses made assumptions that he was managing when in fact he was not.

Jones said Watts’ case would be role-played as part of nurses’ ongoing education programme and staff would be asked how it could have been managed better.

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