Patient with Crohn's disease left in ED corridor unattended for five hours before being moved to ward in Christchurch Hospital - wife

A Christchurch woman says her husband with Crohn's disease waited hours unattended in a corridor at the city's under-pressure emergency department until he was moved to a ward.

The woman, who did not wish to be named, said her husband was rushed to Christchurch Hospital in severe pain after a wound from an unrelated hernia operation failed to heal properly. He first presented to his GP, who suggested an ambulance be called.

The man first arrived at the hospital's ED at about 2:15pm last Tuesday but wasn't moved to a ward for five hours.

There has been recent concern about Christchurch Hospital's ED capacity amid nationwide pressure on the health system. Te Whatu Ora/Health New Zealand Waitaha Canterbury said it had seen 71.1 percent of ED patients with six hours so far this month.

When the man arrived at the hospital, his wife said he was "rolled into the corridor" and continued suffering symptoms of dehydration and blurred vision. The woman said her husband was assessed as triage category 3, which means the condition is "potentially life-threatening", the patient could have adverse outcomes from a delay of longer than half an hour to be seen or the patient is in "severe discomfort or distress".

The maximum clinically appropriate triage time for category 3 was 30 minutes. 

"Basically, he was in so much pain… so he just had to yell out, 'Help me!'

"A nurse came over just to see what he was wanting to do. They gave him some pain relief and I think they left him for longer.

"He said to me, though, there were at least 15 other people in the corridor there - there were people with lacerations on their heads… there were all sorts of people that were obviously in need of critical attention," the woman told Newshub.

She said the situation was "absolutely appalling".

"Obviously, you lose faith in the public system because if you're going to be left in the corridor for five hours when you're in need of medical attention - what's our other option?

"It's just a huge breakdown."

The woman said the ED was busy the whole time her husband was there.

At one point, the woman called the ED to check on the welfare of her husband. She claimed a receptionist admitted to her the ED was "completely overwhelmed".

The woman said when her husband was eventually transferred, he was well looked after by Christchurch Hospital staff. Despite multiple health complications due to his Crohn's disease, she said he was back on the path to recovering from his hernia operation.

But the woman was worried people weren't getting the care they needed.

"We haven't experienced that before with ED," she said.

She had not complained to Te Whatu Ora but was considering their options.

Newshub has in recent weeks reported concerns across New Zealand about the skyrocketing ED wait times. 

New figures showed nearly a quarter of people showing up to New Zealand's EDs were waiting longer than six hours for treatment.

Te Whatu Ora/Health New Zealand Waitaha Canterbury chief medical officer Richard French said it didn't comment on individual patient care but acknowledged its ED had been "very busy".

"To date in October, 71.7 percent of patients have been treated in Christchurch Hospital’s ED within six hours," Dr French said. "This is lower than we would like and is due to a number of factors, including multiple trauma incidents occurring, acutely unwell people presenting to ED, staff shortages due to illness and vacancies and the flow on effect to the ED as our primary care and urgent care facilities are also under pressure.

"We have excellent specialised and experienced nurses, doctors and allied health professionals working in our ED. Our staff are working extremely hard in challenging circumstances and we greatly appreciate the commitment and compassion they show every day."

Dr French said it had processes in place to make sure "we continue to provide appropriate health care to our community with those who are the most unwell being seen first".

Sandy Richardson, the former chair of the College of Emergency Nurses, said on Tuesday the waiting list situation around the country was dangerous.

"If we don't have sufficient staff, if we don't have staff who are trained to be working in the areas that they are placed, then people's lives are being placed at risk," Dr Richardson said.

Last week, an investigation was launched after the death of a patient who had left Christchurch Hospital's ED and later died in intensive care.