Man died after fall at St Albans City Hospital

PUBLISHED: 16:56 08 May 2012

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A MAN who passed away after falling on a stairwell at St Albans City Hospital died as a result of an accident, an inquest has ruled.

Cormac Smith, 60, of Tavistock Avenue, St Albans, visited the hospital on February 2 this year for a routine cataract procedure.

The inquest on Tuesday heard how the operation had gone smoothly and that Mr Smith was being escorted home from the hospital by a female friend when the accident occurred.

A statement read to the court from the friend concerned described how the pair had taken the lift down to the ground floor in order to get to their taxi but realised that the exit was actually on the next floor up.

As the lift had already gone back up, they decided to take the stairs instead. While walking up the stairs Mr Smith’s friend turned to see if he was alright and saw him fall backwards onto the half landing, banging his head on the surface.

The coroner heard how he was unconscious for around a minute but soon came round and was complaining of pain in his lower back.

Nurses coming down the stairs attended to Mr Smith and an ambulance was immediately called to take him to Watford General, as there was a lot of blood coming from his head.

His blood pressure, pulse and oxygen saturations were found to be fine by paramedics and he was conscious and answering questions.

When Mr Smith arrived at the accident and emergency department in Watford at around 6pm he was still fully conscious but he soon began to deteriorate and became deeply unconscious. Scans revealed that there was extensive bleeding on the brain.

It was felt there was nothing more the hospital could do for Mr Smith so he was made comfortable and later passed away.

A post-mortem examination revealed the cause of death to be a cerebral haemorrhage, caused by a traumatic injury. Hepatic cirrhosis and coronary artery disease were also listed as contributory factors.

The court also heard how Mr Smith had suffered with a drinking problem in the past but had managed to conquer it and had not had a drink for several months. There was no alcohol in his system at the time of the accident but the cirrhosis might well have affected how well Mr Smith’s blood was able to clot.

Giving evidence at the inquest, Paula King, matron for surgery at St Albans City Hospital, said that the eye procedure had gone well and that Mr Smith would have been taken into recovery for some tea and toast before being allowed to leave.

She also said that it was not uncommon for people to go down to the ground floor to try and exit the building, despite the signs indicating otherwise.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Herts Coroner Edward Thomas said: “It was just one of those things with the lifts and he might well have fallen elsewhere anyway.”

Addressing Mr Smith’s friend after the verdict, Mr Thomas said: “You did well for him that day. You did everything right and did a really good job. You were a good friend to him.”

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