Friday, 18 July 2008

Rhyl heart pensioner's 160-mile hospital hell

A PENSIONER with a serious heart complaint was bundled into a taxi and taken over 160 miles to a hospital in Leicester for major surgery.

Father-of-two Peter Jones, 76, travelled for over four hours in his dressing gown and slippers with a non-medically trained driver and an oxygen tank packed away in the boot.

He had already contracted MRSA during his 11-day stay at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd.

Medics at the Bodelwyddan hospital said no ambulance was available and refused to let Mr Jones’ family transport him to Glenfield Hospital in Leicester. Instead he was taken by private hire taxi – officials later admitted that they had “misjudged” Mr Jones’ needs. But months on and the family are still waiting for an apology.

The former Rhyl FC player was struck down by a heart attack on Christmas Day. Since then he has battled for a life-saving operation because health bosses in Wales refused to stump up £10,000.

The former Glyndwr High School caretaker suffers from aortic valve stenosis – a narrowing of a heart valve which can lead to chest pain and severe breathing problems.

After a postcode lottery row, the Health Commission Wales finally agreed to pay for Mr Jones to have a new heart valve inserted through his groin in England. It was 85 days before he was discharged because he had to have open heart surgery.

“It was a shock when I found myself travelling to Leicester in a private hire taxi rather than an ambulance,” said Mr Jones.

“I was told I was only going to be in there for seven days but there were complications during surgery and I ended up there for three months.

“I don’t remember consenting to being taken by taxi but I feel it is unfair to expect any kind of sense from a 76-year-old seriously ill patient in desperate need of heart surgery.”

He added: “My painful recollection is of the journey taking between four and five hours with no toilet break.

“I could have travelled in comfort with my family who were also making their way to Leicester.”

A internal investigation was launched after Mr Jones enlisted the help of Vale of Clwyd AM Ann Jones.

The Daily Post exposed his plight earlier this year after he was denied vital treatment despite it being available on the NHS.

In a letter to Ms Jones, Jill Galvani, executive director of nursing, said it is “unclear” how Mr Jones’ travel arrangements were altered despite a request for a technical crew and ambulance.

She said that the trust could not provide an ambulance on that day but admitted the taxi was “not a suitable” mode of transport.

The letter said: “It was inappropriate for Mr Jones to travel this distance in a taxi in his pyjamas and dressing gown.”

But Mr Jones added: “To this day, I don’t know what is going on with the investigation.

“Nobody has written to me personally and apologised.”

A North Wales NHS Trust spokesman last night said there were questions still to be answered.

“Clearly this did not go as well as it should have done, but hospital staff seem to have been faced with a difficult situation whereby this man needed emergency surgery and they seem to have used revised judgement.

“There are lessons to be learnt from this and we apologise to Mr Jones for suffering an ordeal he should not have had to go through.”

Jul 18 2008 by Kelly Fenna,
Daily Post