Southern DHB told man to wait 10 months for cancer test after he collapsed bleeding

Newshub can reveal some Southland patients waiting for bowel cancer screening tests are being left in limbo due to a fault in the system.

Winton man Jason Mitchell, 39, waited three months just to receive confirmation he was on a waiting list at the Southern DHB.

And just how far down he was on that waiting list left his wife Jaimee in tears and in desperation for him.

"When I look at Jason, I can see it in his eyes that he feels there's something not right - and he's scared," Jaimee told Newshub.

In March, just two days into lockdown, father-of-two Jason noticed blood in his stools, calling out to his wife when he started bleeding in the shower.

Jaimee said it was "like a scene from a horror movie".

"There was so much blood," she recalled. "And when he collapsed out of the shower and into my arms, I thought the last words that I'd hear from him was 'I love you'."

Jason was rushed by ambulance from Winton to Southland Hospital. Discharged three days later, he expected to be scheduled for a sigmoidoscopy - a screening test for bowel cancer.

After hearing nothing, the family contacted friend Melissa Vining, who'd fought alongside husband Blair for a faster system of diagnostic testing.

"And yet here we are - nearly two years later - still with the same issues, where people aren't receiving that care in a timely manner," Vining told Newshub.

It took three months for Jason to receive a letter from the Southern DHB, a waiting period they said was down to "a loophole in the patient management system".

But the letter had more bad news.

"When that letter came, I cried because it said he'd have to wait another seven months," Jaimee said. "How is that fair?"

Surgeon Murray Pfeifer's been advocating on Jason's behalf, and says seven months is too long.

"If perchance he does have colorectal cancer, then a delay of that order of magnitude will almost certainly adversely affect any treatment outcomes," Pfeifer said.

Three damning reviews in three years have revealed major problems at the Southern DHB. Christchurch general surgeon Phil Bagshaw says it's "totally unacceptable".

"What's happening is they're using up the colonoscopies to do screening. They should be used to do patients who have actual symptoms suggestive of bowel cancer," Bagshaw explained.

The situation is difficult to explain to the Mitchells' two young girls.

"[They're] asking all the time, 'Is Dad going to be okay?' And we can't give them the answer."

But after questions from Newshub, some good news for the Mitchells.

The DHB has cut Jason's waiting time to just a fortnight - a cancer screening procedure booked for mid-July finally giving some relief to this stressed family.