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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Hospital patient, 89, died following fall

AN 89-YEAR-OLD woman who fell in a hospital ward, fracturing her hip and suffering head injuries, died at West Cumberland Hospital a month later.

An inquest was held in to the death of Mary Isabella McDowell, of Dalegarth Avenue, Whitehaven, last week at which coroner David Roberts recorded a verdict of accidental death.

A post mortem concluded that Mrs McDowell died of a chest infection, which was directly affected by her hip fracture and head injuries.

The inquest heard that Mrs McDowell was admitted to hospital on January 21 last year with dementia, angina and a urine infection.

Over the following days, care reports completed by staff concluded that Mrs McDowell was at risk of falling and needed to use a Zimmer frame.

On January 27, Mrs McDowell fell while walking unaided in a hospital ward corridor, causing hip and head injuries. A health care assistant saw Mrs McDowell walking unaided, and although she didn’t know the patient needed a Zimmer frame, said she looked safe.

Following her fall, a number of tests and checks were carried out by medical staff, including a CT scan which confirmed Mrs McDowell’s injuries.

The hospital was unable to operate on Mrs McDowell as she was unfit to have major surgery. She remained in hospital, where she was made comfortable, and died on February 28.

Lynn Anderson, head of nursing, said everything was done to look after Mrs McDowell, before and after the fall. “She had all the help that was required at the time,” she said.

Mrs Anderson said during the time of Mrs McDowell’s fall, the hospital was carrying out a review of slips, trips and falls.

She said: “We have a fall care plan where we see if there is a risk of someone falling or if they have a previous history of falling. We formed a group, including physios, doctors and nurses, to look at what the areas of risk were.”

Ongoing improvements have been made to care plans and when they are used. “One of the main differences is that the plans were filled in once a week and now we do it at every shift hand-over, three times a day,” she said.

James McDowell said his mother was a very active person until the dementia set in and she was very independent. “She had a quiet life and was very family orientated,” he added.

In conclusion, Mr Roberts said: “The care reports and paperwork that were carried out by the hospital seemed to be very comprehensive. She had been seen by an occupational therapist who said she needed a Zimmer frame, although there are comments that she often forgot to use it. She was seen walking down the corridor unaided.

“Sadly Mrs McDowell fell, striking her head and fracturing her hip.”

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