The DHB and death of shearing legend

Published date30 October 2023
AuthorDoug Laing
Publication titleBush Telegraph
Mullins, from Dannevirke, died in Wellington Hospital on September 16, 2019, after a fatal injection of air into one of his arteries at the start of what was supposed to have been a routine stent procedure

His Hastings-based daughter Korina, in the hours after her father’s death, questioned staff and received an admission that there had been a mistake and that a full investigation would follow.

But an inquest into the death in November and December last year heard that there wasn’t a “full investigation”, which annoyed deputy chief coroner Brigitte Windley.

In findings released publicly, Windley says the manner in which the Capital & Coast DHB conducted itself throughout the investigation was “largely unhelpful, obfuscated the search for the truth and served only to add to the trauma they [the Mullins family] had already suffered”.

Korina told media the report made her fear that her father’s death was not a unique event in New Zealand and that there was the potential for medical procedure mistakes to be kept quiet to protect the interests of hospitals, health service providers and staff.

She said the whānau had consistent concerns about why there was cleaning or disposal of medical equipment after the fatal surgery, and why a foreign national among the surgical team was able to leave the country shortly afterwards without being interviewed.

Capital, Coast and Hutt Valley, now a division of Te Whatu Ora, acknowledged it “failed” Mullins and there were shortcomings in the review process into his death. It said it had implemented several changes to ensure such an incident did not happen again.

In her 71-page report, Windley says what happened before and after Mullins’ death was “not an outcome that should ever sit easily with the medical professionals involved” and that, in addition to the family, it would continue to affect the theatre clinicians.

Windley noted her jurisdiction did not encompass “an examination of the manner in which the Capital & Coast DHB, its review panel and its clinicians engaged with the Mullins whānau following Koro’s death, in particular relation to the hospital’s systems analysis review process”.

Korina Mullins, a nurse who has recently moved into a new job involving privacy and legal issues in health, sparked in part by her experiences of the past four years, said she wondered what would have happened if she had not asked questions on the tragic afternoon in Wellington.

“We wouldn’t be here,” she said as she again pored over her...

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