A patient who turned up to Auckland's Middlemore Hospital's emergency department on Wednesday - then left because of long wait times - has now died.
New Zealand’s busiest hospital has launched an urgent investigation into the death of a patient who presented at ED and later died in intensive care.
In an anonymous email to 1News, understood to be from a staff member at the hospital, claimed a colleague witnessed the woman presenting in the early hours of Wednesday morning with a severe headache and that she was turned away due to long wait times.
In an statement on Thursday afternoon Dr Pete Watson, Acting chief executive Counties Manukau Health, said the patient had returned to the hospital several hours later.
"Middlemore continues to be under extreme pressure and patient presentations have been abnormally high for this time of year. In the early hours of Wednesday morning a patient presented to our Emergency Department who then left only to return a few hours later following a life-threatening emergency.
"That patient is now in our Intensive Care Unit. The circumstances of the patient leaving the hospital are being urgently investigated. We acknowledge this is an extremely stressful time for the family and we have instigated an immediate investigation into the case and circumstances.
"We are focusing on managing the extreme demands on our services and continue to work with WDHB and ADHB to support patient demand."
However, Watson updated his statement just after 5pm saying the patient had died in ICU.
The person who contacted 1News says they believe the patients' life could have been saved had "our health system been coping".
They claim when the patient returned to Middlemore a CT scan revealed a massive brain haemorrhage.
The email also stated said the person "wanted to share this horrendous story" and that it "needed to be publicised".
A full investigation is now underway and is being carried out by one of Middlemore's most senior doctors, Chief Medical Officer Andrew Connolly. The Counties Manukau DHB has offered condolences to the family.
Last week Middlemore closed its ED for three hours and diverted patients arriving by ambulance to North Shore Hospital. Chief executive Dr Pete Watson says this was necessary because the hospital had received a record number of presentations during the week and staff needed to regroup.
Hospitals all around New Zealand have been reporting high numbers at ED's for several weeks due Covid-19 and the early onset of winter respiratory illnesses.
It comes as 1News asked Health Minister Andrew Little earlier on Thursday if he was worried about patients dying because of stress on the health system.
“Our health workforce are committed to protecting and restoring health, and managing chronic and critical illnesses as best as is possible. So is the government," he said.
“The health system has been under serious pressure from years of neglect and underinvestment. It hasn’t been working for patients or the health workforce as best as anyone wants is to.
“We have taken a number of steps to turn around these years of neglect. This includes properly funding the health system and reforming the structures that prevent it from working as well as it could.
“There is more to do and turning the health system around will take time.”