Tragedy of father's hospital visit
PUBLISHED: 12:07 24 September 2009 | UPDATED: 14:27 06 May 2010
SIR – I am prompted to respond to the letter from an anonymous correspondent detailing treatment of his/her elderly mother at Watford General Hospital (Herts Advertiser, September 17). Four years ago my 82-year-old father was admitted to Hemel Hempstead
SIR - I am prompted to respond to the letter from an anonymous correspondent detailing treatment of his/her elderly mother at Watford General Hospital (Herts Advertiser, September 17).
Four years ago my 82-year-old father was admitted to Hemel Hempstead General Hospital for "complete bed rest".
He had neuropathy and a diabetic ulcer on his foot which after several years of regular treatment had stubbornly refused to heal. While an outpatient at St Albans City Hospital he had contracted MRSA.
After about a week in hospital it was decided that my father should have a "femoral artery bypass" operation.
This should have been carried out at least five years previously; as predicted it was a failure, which would almost certainly have resulted in the eventual amputation of his leg.
At the end of two weeks in bed my father started to complain of a painful bedsore on his back, which remained untreated.
After several days of complaining to staff a "ripple" mattress was eventually placed on his bed but was found not to work, and it was several more days before a working ripple mattress could be located.
As there was no available electric socket at the bedside for it to be plugged into the cable had to run across the floor from the end of the bed to a socket on the opposite side of the room.
On one occasion I arrived at lunchtime to find my father's meal on a tray at the end of the bed where he could not reach it.
There was no cutlery, and after enquiring of a nurse where the cutlery was and waiting for at least five minutes during which it failed to arrive, I went in search of it myself.
By the time I found it, the meal was cold and inedible.
Then my father suffered a heart attack while I was visiting him and the doctors wanted to haul him into intensive care.
It was obvious to both my father and me that within a few days he would die, and on his behalf I requested that the doctors "keep him comfortable and let him go".
At this point, mercifully, they installed a morphine drip which eliminated the pain of the bedsore.
On the day my father died I saw him at lunchtime when he was awake and talking, and had planned to visit him later with my husband who was travelling down from our home in Wales.
However, during the late afternoon I received a phone call from the ward requesting me to come in to the hospital immediately.
My husband and I arrived from my father's home in Redbourn within 15 minutes but there was no member of staff to meet us, and as we approached the door of my father's room I noticed that the light had been turned off, and immediately feared the worst.
It was interesting to note that there had been time between my receiving the phone call and my arrival at the hospital for the staff to change the bedding, and it is my belief that my father was probably alone when he died.
I then had to find a member of staff to provide me with some carrier bags in which to take my father's personal effects away.
I was far too distressed at the time to consider making any type of formal complaint to the hospital.
I have never spoken about these incidents to anyone until prompted to do so after reading the letter in the current edition of the Herts Advertiser to which I referred at the beginning of this letter.
I find it scandalous that any elderly, dying patient, and subsequently their bereaved relatives, should be treated with such indifference.