28 Jul 2009

Family owed explanation in person, says Labour

8:06 pm on 28 July 2009

Family members of a soldier who died after an operation in Christchurch are owed face-to-face contact with the local health board as they seek more information about his death, says Labour.

Canterbury District Health Board has admitted failures in the care of Burnham soldier Clinton Botha, 21, who died on 7 March after surgery at Christchurch Hospital to relieve a congenital condition that causes severe headaches.

In an email to his mother, the board's medical director of patient safety, George Downward, says Mr Botha died of progressive respiratory failure.

Mr Downward said problems with routine monitoring of Mr Botha resulted in staff failing to detect what was happening as his blood oxygen fell below a critical level.

He said changes have been made in the wake of Mr Botha's death.

However, Mr Botha's mother, Charlotte Botha, says the family was never told about the risk of respiratory failure.

She says the surgeon told her the operation was routine but she later found out that he had performed only three such procedures before.

Ms Botha says she has had minimal correspondence from the board, and Labour health spokesperson Ruth Dyson says she is concerned that the Botha family has received information about what happened by email.

The board says it will not comment further until it has finalised its internal inquiry into the death. Once that inquiry is completed it will share the findings with the Botha family.

It says the coroner is also investigating the soldier's unexpected death.

Ms Dyson says the board needs to make it a priority to get the information about what happened to the family.

She says it is not good enough that the board contacted the family by email, and a face-to-face meeting followed by written confirmation would be more respectful.

The board says it has been in contact with the Botha family.