91-year-old inpatient caught Covid waiting for care plan, inquest hears

Suffolk Coroner's Court in Ipswich Picture: ADAM HOWLETT

A two day inquest has begun into the death of Ethel Eniffer, from Bury St Edmunds. - Credit: Archant

A 91-year-old woman who was "medically capable for discharge" died after catching Covid in hospital while waiting to go home, a coroner's court has heard. 

Ethel Eniffer was admitted to hospital from her home at Blackbourne View, in Bury St Edmunds, on November 22 2020 to be treated for pneumonia, with clinicians noting that she might not survive the admission. 

But by November 30 her condition had improved enough for Dr Vikas Bhalla, a consultant at West Suffolk Hospital, to begin preparing a discharge plan. 

Speaking in coroner's court on January 10 2022, he said that "non-medical reasons" surrounding Ms Eniffer's care package kept her on the ward until December 2.

The court heard a fellow patient then tested positive for Covid-19, meaning she was placed in isolation and tested positive on December 8.

The 91-year-old was moved to palliative care from December 10. She died on December 18. 

The family of Ms Eniffer said that she had a good life, coping very well with challenges thrown her way.  

Most Read

In 1998, she had a stroke that left her paralysed on the right-hand side - but her daughter Janice Percival said it didn't stop her living relatively independently. 

Because more than a week passed between Ethel Eniffer being transferred to the palliative care ward and her death her family has questioned whether the end of life assessment was correct. 

Mrs Percival challenged testimony describing her mother as "unresponsive" on arrival into the palliative care ward, saying that her daughter visited the day of the transfer and was "concerned" that her grandmother was trying to talk but her mouth was too dry. 

She added that she met similar circumstances the next day and told the inquest: "She opened her eyes. I asked her to blink if she knew it was me and she did.  

"Care at that point could have been better. I'm not happy she was written off." 

Dr Mary McGregor, palliative care consultant, responded that patients were more likely to respond to their loved ones and that she was glad to hear that the family had been able to have meaningful exchanges. 

She said that she did not disagree with the decision to withdraw active treatment, although noted it was natural that family would question the "prolonged" nature of Ms Eniffer's final days. 

When questioned on the same issue, Dr Bhalla said: "Every patient goes through the dying process and journey in their own individual way." 

The inquest is expected to last two days. 

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter