Oldie left 185km from home


A Queenstown pensioner left to find his own way home after being discharged from Southland Hospital says elderly patients need more help.

Graeme Botting, who turns 83 this month, suffered a mini-stroke six weeks ago.

After a night at Lakes District Hospital he was taken by ambulance to Invercargill for a CAT scan and more testing.

The following morning, a Sunday, he was discharged and left to find his own way home – 185km away.

“It’s pretty rough to have to take a taxi to a commercial bus when you are discharged and don’t have anyone else to come for you. If you live alone you will find it more difficult.”

Southern health board boss Carole Heatly says in a statement it takes seriously concerns raised by patients.

She’s aware a St John shuttle service to Invercargill doesn’t operate at weekends.

“If this poses any difficulties we would encourage them to discuss their needs with us.”

It caps a rubbish few weeks for the unpopular board.

It has been criticised for leaving Queenstown off a series of consultation meetings - which led to an  - and for its treatment of a six-year-old with a broken arm.

Botting says he doesn’t want to whinge, he just wants to raise awareness.

He lost his wife Shirley to cancer last November and it has been a difficult few months for the family.

Daughter Liz was visiting from England with his two granddaughters when he had the “turn”.

She’d taken the dog for a walk and Botting was playing grandad with 16-month-old twins.

Botting: “My friends came in and I couldn’t remember their names. I knew I was speaking gibberish to them.”

Having suffered a similar Transient Ischemic Attack four years ago, he realised immediately what was happening.

Botting praises the care he received while in Southland Hospital. In his opinion it’s the aftercare that’s lacking.

There was an element of “get you out as soon as possible” once the testing was complete, he says.

Knowing discharge was likely, and adamant his daughter wasn’t making the four-hour round trip with the kiddies, he kept an eye on bus timetables.

The only return service to Queenstown was at 10.30am.

Botting’s argument is ambulances used to transfer patients to Invercargill could be used to take discharged patients home. But St John’s Queenstown boss Keith Raymond says it isn’t that simple - ambulances could be diverted to an emergency at any time.

The shuttle service relies on donations and volunteer drivers.

It was set up in 2012 and, since then, has transferred more than 1740 patients.

St John spin doctor Ian Henderson, of Christchurch, says it’s not planning additional trips.

“We would need to do some wide-ranging consultation with the board, other health providers and the local community to see if there was a requirement and demand for an extension of service.”