Lowestoft family's plea for answers from hospital
PUBLISHED: 12:06 25 February 2011
AN angry family demanded answers from Lowestoft Hospital this week after a frail 88-year-old woman was found outside the building late at night, lying face-down "covered in blood".
Relatives of Vera Corey are now calling for an investigation after she apparently walked unnoticed through two corridors, down two sets of stairs and then got outside - despite needing a walking frame.
Mrs Corey, of Spashett Road, had been admitted to the hospital in early February, after a series of health problems in recent years, including a broken wrist and hip and three bouts of pneumonia.
As she had been admitted on previous occasions and was known to the staff, she was put in her own room opposite the nurses’ station in the Gertrude Barwood ward so a close eye could be kept on her.
But her son Brent said this clearly failed to happen, because last Monday - Valentines night - she managed to walk out of her ward unseen and, following a search, she was eventually found in the car park.
Mrs Corey was face down on the concrete, yards from the main door, wearing her pyjamas and slippers.
An ambulance was called and it was at this point that Mr Corey and his sister Lorna were told they needed to get over to the James Paget University Hospital as their mother had “fallen over.”
“I had a call from Lorna saying quick get over to the James Paget as mum is in an ambulance on her way there,” Mr Corey said. “I telephoned Lowestoft Hospital and they said they had to call an ambulance as mum had been found lying face down covered in blood in the car park.
“My immediate response was how in hell could that happen?”
However, it was only after making calls and asking questions that the details of what happened emerged
Mr Corey said his mother had suffered cuts and bruises to her face and arms, and needed stitches in a cut over her eye. And further checks revealed that the ambulance control log listed a ‘fall over or from the balcony’, so it remained unclear as to how she came to be lying on the ground.
“Something went drastically wrong,” he said. “She was opposite the nurses station, but went past them, through two corridors, two flights of stairs all on a walking frame which is absolutely unbelieveable.”
Mr Corey added: “She lost one of her slippers on the way as well, and if one of the nurses had been there they surely would’ve seen her - it is like a prisoner of war escaping...All we have been told by the hospital is that ‘we lost her and then a search was initiated’ with mother eventually found.”
“When we arrived at the James Paget, the side of mother’s face was cut and there was lots of blood, we weren’t sure if her fingers were broken as they were too badly bruised and her arm, leg and body was covered in bruises... We were very, very concerned for her welfare.”
Mrs Corey has been retired for a number of years, having once worked as a dinner lady at the old Lowestoft Grammar School - now the Denes High in Yarmouth Road.
Following her fall, she was treated at the James Paget for a day but her family was then told she would have to be transferred back to Lowestoft Hospital.
They say her health has suffered since her fall. “She has been completely disorientated and was in shock,” Mr Corey said. “Mum has been a fighter all her life but this has frightened us more than anything. This week she has been disorientated, very sleepy - it does not bare thinking about what might have been.”
The family have sent letters to John Hemming, chairman of James Paget’s NHS Foundation Trust, asking for “an immediate investigation” into the incident and for any CCTV footage to be made available.
“We still don’t know how long had mother been lying there and what actually happened.” Mr Corey said. “When I phoned the ambulance control room at Norwich when they were first called out they suspected that mother had gone over the balcony. We have no information and don’t know how long she laid there, when the ambulance arrived mother was very cold so she must have been there for a while.
A hospital spokesman said yesterday: “Patient confidentiality requires that we do not discuss individual patients’ care in detail.
“A number of issues have been raised by the family of this patient and we are in contact with them. A way forward has been agreed and we will continue to work closely with the family through that process.
“We take all complaints, formal and informal, very seriously and welcome the opportunity they give us to find out where we can do better to improve the quality of the services we provide,” the hospital spokesman added. “We use learning to review our practices and procedures as a means of continuous improvement.”