In the context of ongoing austerity measures in many countries worldwide as we grapple a difficult economic situation, it is important that healthcare providers do not forget the very basics of care. Medical negligence claims are often pursued when victims feel they have not been listened to – and basic care and compassion costs next to nothing.
There have been many stories in the press in recent weeks regarding the most elementary mistakes that are being made in arguably overstretched hospital wards and other care environments.
Take the case of Bridget Callan, 62, who died in hospital. A diabetic, she was concerned that her blood sugar levels were too low and buzzed for help for more than 20 minutes before her husband felt compelled to call the police for help. Her husband condemned Tameside Hospital and it is one of many which have been identified as needing an in-depth inspection because of higher than average death rates.
And, sadly, this case echoes that of diabetic Kane Gorny who died of dehydration at a London teaching hospital after he phoned police from his bed because he was so thirsty. A Westminster inquest heard he called his mother, Rita Cronin, who went to the hospital where she found him delirious with swollen lips and a swollen tongue. She told the inquest that staff refused to listen to her concerns. According to Coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe, Kane Gorny died ‘as a result of dehydration contributed to by neglect.’
These problems are not restricted to hospital environments, either. Norma Spear, 71, died of dehydration at Druids Meadow care home in Birmingham because of ‘gross neglect’ by staff. A Coroner said she died of natural causes ‘to which neglect contributed’. Ms Spear, from Harborne, Birmingham, developed a urinary tract infection in her five weeks at the home which stunted her appetite and led her to become dangerously dehydrated, the inquest heard. Birmingham’s deputy coroner Sarah Ormond-Walshe identified 11 failures – five of them severe enough to merit gross neglect – by staff at the home. “The failures I found are gross because they were so terribly simple … It should have been obvious she was not drinking sufficiently for at least the last two weeks. It does not require medical training,” she said.
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