Hospital-acquired Covid ruled cause of death for 91-year-old woman

The hearing took place at Suffolk Coroner's Court in Beacon House, Ipswich Picture: ARCHANT

The hearing took place at Suffolk Coroner's Court in Beacon House, Ipswich Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Su Anderson

West Suffolk Hospital has "apologised unreservedly" to the family of a 91-year-old from Bury St Edmunds who caught Covid-19 during her stay in hospital and died. 

The two day inquest into the death of Ethel Eniffer concluded on Tuesday.

The 91-year-old died on December 18 2020 after contracting coronavirus in hospital. 

Assistant coroner Tim Deeming recorded a narrative verdict, determining that Ms Eniffer was taken to hospital on November 22, 2020 with community-acquired pneumonia and concerns were recorded over whether she would survive admission.

Although she recovered to the point she was deemed "medically optimised" for discharge on November 30, she could not be sent home until carers were in place to look after her. 

But the planned discharge could not take place after a Covid outbreak occurred on Ms Eniffer's ward on December 3, 2020. 

She tested positive for the virus on December 8 and following "further deconditioning and functional decline" died 10 days later. 

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Mr Deeming noted that he was unable to identify the actual source of the Covid-19 infection, save for the fact that it was "acquired in hospital, which the hospital acknowledge". 

He described Ms Eniffer's daughter, Janice Percival, as "devoted" and said he understood her strength of feeling regarding the apparent delay in discharging her mother to her home at Blackbourne View. 

In evidence given to the court, Sue Wilkinson, executive chief nurse at West Suffolk Hospital, described the required care plan as "complex" and said it was a "pretty swift turnaround" before the virus outbreak halted proceedings. 

Rowan Procter, director of care and support at Orwell Housing, said Ms Eniffer's needs had significantly increased and more resources were required.

When asked about the usual speed of discharge plans, she said a number of days was reasonable. 

Clinicians giving evidence across the two-day inquest said that lessons had been learned about better communication with relatives and the transmission of Covid in hospital settings. 

Mrs Wilkinson offered an "unreserved apology for the fact that [Ms Eniffer] did contract Covid while in our care". 

She added that "at no point" did the hospital place patients who had returned positive swabs or were exhibiting coronavirus symptoms in bays with those testing negative.

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