30 Aug 2011

Meningitis victim sent home twice by doctors

6:53 pm on 30 August 2011

A Whangarei man who died from meningitis was twice sent home by doctors, despite both being aware he may have the fatal disease.

Northland Health has begun an investigation after apprentice plumber Ben Brown, 18, died in Whangarei Hospital's intensive care unit on Saturday after being seen by two doctors earlier in the week.

Kelc MacKenzie says she took her boyfriend to the White Cross Medical Centre in Whangarei when he became ill on Tuesday evening. Staff warned her that Mr Brown could have meningitis, gave her a pamphlet, and told her to take him to hospital if he got worse.

Miss MacKenzie says she then called an ambulance about 30 minutes after visiting the clinic and went with Mr Brown to the hospital's emergency department where he was given fluids and antibiotics.

She says Mr Brown was drowsy, vomiting and in pain with a sore neck he'd had for two days.

Miss MacKenzie told Checkpoint after four-and-a-half hours at the emergency department, at about 2am on Wednesday a doctor told them he was finishing his shift and it could be difficult transferring Mr Brown to a new doctor, so he would be discharged.

"We thought he knew what he was talking about. We agreed that's what we'll do then. He was still vomiting as we left the building. He was walking out vomiting in a bucket."

Miss MacKenzie says she no longer trusts doctors.

The White Cross Medical Centre declined to be interviewed on Tuesday, but said in a statement it is reviewing the case.

The Northland District Health Board did not return calls on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr Brown's death has been referred to the coroner.