Another death in exile

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She birthed 1000 local babies but died lonely in Dunedin.

Southland District Health Board can add another Queenstown elderly exile to its growing list of gravestones.

Myrtle Buddle, 96, died last Friday in a Dunedin private hospital after being bumped from Queenstown’s Lakes District Hospital two years ago – a casualty of the resort’s elderly-care crisis.

For 25 years until the mid-1970s, Buddle was matron of Queenstown’s former Stanley Street maternity home – she delivered more than 1000 babies.

“She was highly respected and admired as the only midwife in the Wakatipu,” her friend Betty Greer says.

People such as Buddle who gave so much to the community should be able to grow old in their home town, Greer says.

“She would have been much happier in Queenstown.”

But Buddle fell victim to Invercargill-biased SDHB’s underfunding of Wakatipu elderly-care – LDH has only
six long-term elderly beds and no dementia care.

The former matron was admitted to LDH in late 2006 with a bladder infection but was exiled soon after – first to Mosgiel then Dunedin – when diagnosed with dementia.

Greer: “That’s the tragedy. If other places can [look after their old folk locally], why can’t we?”

Eighty-five-year-old Greer was able to visit her friend in Dunedin just once in two years – three weeks ago. “I think she was sort of waiting to see me.”

Buddle never married but lots of Wakatipu friends could have visited her if she’d been admitted to hospital locally, Greer adds.

“She deserved more than she got,” Greer says when asked about SDHB’s treatment of Buddle.

Greer is still bitter about Buddle being bumped from LDH – she seriously doubts the Alzheimer’s diagnosis that forced her friend out of town.

“They put her on this jolly drug and she didn’t know where she was.”

SDHB has faced years of community flak for woefully inadequate Waka­­tipu elderly-care services and there’s scant hope of improvement.

The only glimmer – and it’s faint – is that Pres­byterian Support Ser­­vices is to quit its Wakatipu Home for the Elderly adjoining LDH. PSS is said to be talking to at least two replacement providers.

Any deal would require a new operator to install hospital-level elderly care at the home, allowing SDHB to
relinquish its six elderly-care beds at LDH.

 

Dying away

At least six other long-time Queens­towners have died since 2007 – either in exile or on the eve of exile – because of a lack of elderly-care beds:

Jack Spence, deported to Gore, where he died

Ches Esdaile, exiled to Cromwell

Nan Gordon died two years ago this week after being banished from the Wakatipu

Gladys Uren, moved to Inver­cargill

Catherine Coull, also shipped off to Cromwell

Betty Watson, expelled to die at home in Glen­orchy