Cancer victim spends final months fearing exile
A terminally-ill Queenstown man spent the last two months of his life worrying about being exiled to die.
Long-time local Malcolm “Ned” Kelly, 58, died at Lakes District Hospital in August as health officials were about to deport him to an out-of-town hospice – to free up LDH bed space.
“It was like, ‘OK, we’ve got to keep the [patient] numbers down here, let’s ship him out’,” his widow Sue says.
“It was as if we had an axe over our heads the whole time…that constant fear that he was going to be sent away – that’s what he died with.”
Malcolm, a long-serving Wakatipu Lion, battled bowel cancer for five years.
In the last 12 months of his life, he was admitted to LDH several times for a range of complications and side-effects.
During this time, doctors told the couple that Malcolm’s life expectancy could be anything from weeks to years.
Sue recalls: “We were getting mixed messages that he could last a long time and others were saying he could go at any moment.”
As a result, doctors raised the prospect of transferring him to either Cromwell’s Ripponburn Rest Home, Alexandra’s Ranui Home and Hospital or the Invercargill Hospice.
“It felt like we were being railroaded.”
Thinking the hospice was more “appropriate” than a resthome, the couple began getting used to the idea of their lives changing dramatically.
In July Sue reduced her hours at Queenstown Resort College, planning to drive between here and Invercargill each day.
“I just didn’t want Malcolm to be on his own and that was the only way I could see around it.
“The [health system’s] attitude was I should give up work to be with him.”
But Malcolm never got to Invercargill – he was admitted to LDH again in July and stayed there until his death on August 3.
“In some ways [the uncertainty] could have been another reason for him giving up in the end,” a tearful Sue says.
“He knew that it was creating a situation that he didn’t like and it did affect his last days.”
She believes there should be a purpose-built unit for terminally-ill patients next to Frankton’s Wakatipu Home for the Elderly on SDHB-owned land.
“That’s what I found so hard – people are being sent away from their main support to die, at a time when they need their families around them.”
Her sad story is the latest in a litany of Queenstown public health scandals emerging since Mountain Scene revealed in July that LDH is significantly under-funded by Southland District Health Board – with further cuts looming on the horizon.
A lack of resources at LDH means many local elderly have been deported over the past few years and Queenstown mums have also gone public with birthing and pregnancy horror stories.
The Wakatipu Health Trust, calling for a hospital shakeup, tonight releases a draft report that for the first time pinpoints glaring gaps in Queenstown public healthcare.