Dad fears Tauranga Hospital understaffed after 11hr wait in Emergency Department with sick son

A feverish 3-year-old boy coughing and having trouble breathing waited 11 hours overnight to see a doctor in Tauranga Hospital’s emergency department, his father says.

John Mills said the long wait meant he had to sleep in the car with his daughter while wife Rozeli Da Silva Mills waited with their son Dwayne John (DJ) inside the hospital.

DJ was not separated from others or given a Covid test despite his symptoms.

The Katikati family drove to Tauranga Hospital about 11pm last Tuesday night after DJ became sick. A nurse saw DJ about 6am and monitored his condition but it wasn’t until 10am that a doctor saw him and diagnosed him with croup, Mills said.

Mills said what appeared to be a lack of staff was a “big worry”, especially since Covid-19 had not even arrived in the Bay.

His concerns were shared by a second patient at the hospital that night, who said he believed the hospital was “struggling to cope” and wondered what it would do in the event of a Covid outbreak.

Mills told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend the family’s ordeal began after his son had “hard breathing”, high fever and a bad cough.

“We knew DJ was getting worse and worse – his cough was getting really bad and he was finding it hard to breathe and he’s [got] a high temperature [of] 39,” he said.

“The ordeal started there,” he said.

“We were there from 11’o’clock at night until 6 in the morning before someone actually came and saw us.”

It appeared “they don’t have any staff on – there’s no people there. That’s the problem”.

When they “finally” saw a doctor, he was “pretty good but he’s under the pump”.

“The poor guy is run off his feet.

“I feel sorry for the staff – it’s not his fault, it’s just the staffing.”

Mills said this was “a big worry” considering Covid-19 was not in the region.

In his view, staffing issues at hospitals were why the Government was pushing for a high vaccination rate.

He said, in his view, the hospital “can’t even handle” normal cases for children, colds and common complaints.

Mills said there were no after-hours medical services in Katikati and they had to go to Tauranga.

It was also “strange” his wife and DJ were not given a Covid-19 test.

“They just stuck him in the waiting area.”

Mills said he believed there were not enough paediatricians to look after children in New Zealand.

“Hospitals – when you go in there after-hours, you should be diverted to another area where your child should be seen to by a paediatric – not accident and emergency.

“The level of service here when you’ve got young kids as a parent is terrible.”

Mills said he had a similar experience last Christmas with daughter Victoria, and waited five hours.

“I guarantee you it’s down to staff. There’s no staff.”

Another patient, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also went to the emergency department by car at 11pm that night and said they waited about six hours.

The patient had concerns around “staffing levels” and the “waiting time” because they had also been to the hospital the night before and were seen “quite quickly”, after two hours.

“Being the second visit, we thought it’d be similar.

“If they’re struggling to cope now with people coming in, how would they cope if there was an outbreak of Covid in the Bay?”

The patient said the hospital was “quite busy” and there were “only three doctors on apparently”.

The patient saw DJ and his mother in the waiting room. “We thought he would have been separated having flu-like symptoms but he was just left with everyone else sitting in the waiting room.”

Vik Maniya went to the emergency department by car on the same night about 10pm with a twisted foot.

“I was in pain and waiting … until 6am.”

Maniya said he had an x-ray done between 5am and 6am.

“They said [the] x-ray is fine, [the] doctor is busy, they cannot see you.

Maniya said the staff were “really helpful” and could see the hospital was “really busy”.

He said the wait time “maybe” could have been due to a staff shortage.

The Bay of Plenty District Health Board and the Ministry of Health have been approached for comment.

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