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Death after surgery: Coroner’s inquiry

Trevor Cretney, who died in 2017. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Local colonoscopy patient’s death investigated

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The events leading up to the death of a Wairarapa man, just days after having colonoscopy surgery were heard by the coroner on Wednesday.

The two-day hearing, at the Wellington District Court, is looking into the death of Trevor Cretney who died in 2017 while in the intensive care unit of Wellington Hospital.

On Wednesday, Coroner Tim Scott heard from three witnesses including Cretney’s daughter Sharon who told the court her father had tested positive for blood as part of the national bowel screening programme.

Due to the positive result, he received colonoscopy surgery at Wairarapa Hospital on October 10, 2017.

The 74-year-old had over 30 polyps [abnormal tissue growths] removed from his colon [large intestine].

The surgery was carried out and Cretney was discharged later that day.

On the evening of the next day he returned to ED and the next morning he was assessed by the surgeon and two others.

A CT scan showed that there was fluid and air in Cretney’s abdomen which was indicative of there being a hole in his colon.

The Wairarapa Hospital surgeon who carried out the operation said that at that point Cretney would have deteriorated rapidly if he had not been operated on.

As the hospital did not have an intensive care unit to keep him in, Cretney was flown to Wellington Hospital, where the duty of care was passed on to the duty surgeon.

According to the Wellington Hospital duty surgeon once Cretney arrived he was put into a ward, rather than the intensive care unit, following a discussion between the intensive care unit staff and the transfer team.

Due to a communication error, the duty surgeon was not made aware that Cretney had arrived for nearly four hours.

However, after reviewing the CT scan where he did not find evidence of a hole in Cretney’s colon and seeing that the patient’s condition did not appear to have deteriorated, the decision was made to continue Cretney’s care without surgery.

During the morning of October 13 Cretney’s care was handed on to the weekend duty surgeon.
His condition deteriorated over the weekend and he finally had surgery on October 15.

He died in the intensive care unit of Wellington Hospital, at approximately 11.30pm that night, five days after the initial surgery.

More details from people involved in the later parts of Cretney’s care at Wellington Hospital was heard yesterday.


  1. This is a typical case of medical mis adventure.. and typical of New Zealand where we can’t sue.. the surgeons go free!

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Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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