St Albans patient dies after fall in ‘desperate’ bid to leave hospital ward

PUBLISHED: 18:56 18 August 2010

Coroner's Court.

Coroner's Court.


A FALL in hospital was partly to blame for the death of a 90-year-old patient from St Albans.

Joseph Gilmartin, of Cottonmill Lane, was admitted to Watford General Hospital for congestive heart failure on October 9 last year and doctors were in the process of planning his discharge when Mr Gilmartin fell over in the ward and injured his head on October 17.

Mr Gilmartin, whose wife of over 50 years, Mary, was present at last Wednesday’s inquest on August 11, became immobile and Dr Elemi Smithers said at the inquest that his Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) had dropped from the highest score of 15 to a dangerously low seven in a matter of hours.

Mr Gilmartin, whom Herts coroner Ed Thomas said seemed to be “desperate to leave” hospital from the offset, had a CT scan after the fall which showed bleeding in and around the brain, accounting for a loss of consciousness.

Dr Smithers said that it was decided nothing much could be done for Mr Gilmartin: “We liaised with our specialist centre in Queen’s Square, London, but they said that they couldn’t offer anything for the bleeding. We therefore decided to support and monitor Mr Gilmartin for the next few days.”

Despite being described as a “very young 90-year-old” by the pathologist, Mr Gilmartin quickly developed a chest infection and then pneumonia as a result of the fall.

The former RAF pilot died in the early hours of October 20 and Mr Thomas, who said that “it was the fall that hastened Mr Gilmartin’s death”, recorded a verdict of accidental death due to acute laryngotracheobronchitis and bronchopneumonia.

Mrs Gilmartin, who was supported by her son, said at the inquest: “He was most unhappy on that ward and for him to die there without us saying goodbye will be a memory for the rest of my life.”

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