Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Dying for a drink
Derek Sauter, 60, had been taken into hospital with a chest infection and then died for lack of care. Mr Sauter’s condition wasn’t life threatening when he was admitted to St Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup, in Kent. He was given intravenous antibiotics and oxygen. He telephoned his wife later in the evening in distress claiming that nurses were refusing to give him any water because he’d accidentally knocked over his first glass.
A note scrawled by Mr Sauter and discovered by his family after his death said: 'Asked for a jug of water at 6pm and again at 8.30, told to wait for handover. Said I knocked cup of water on floor.'
Some time between 9.30pm and 11.30pm Mr Sauter was moved to a side room where there was no monitoring equipment and, although he was supposed to be checked every four hours, no observations on his condition were made. At 11.35pm Mr Sauter, who had still not had any fluids, made his desperate call to the switchboard. The following morning, at 6.51am, a distressed Mr Sauter telephoned his wife to ask her to come back to the hospital. But he died of pneumonia brought on by the chest infection less than half an hour later - before his wife arrived.
Mrs Sauter had not been able to see her husband before because the events had happened outside of visiting hours. An investigation by the hospital revealed Mr Sauter's oxygen levels, which should have been routinely monitored, were not checked for 11 hours and had dropped 35 per cent below the recommended level.
The self-appointed disciplinarian masquerading as a nurse in this case was one Caroline Lowe. Ms Lowe was found to be responsible for Mr Sauter’s care and the investigation concluded that Mr Sauter would have survived if Ms Lowe had been doing her job properly. She was sacked from St Mary’s but not struck off as a nurse. So, she’s now free to punish some other poor sod in the care of the NHS.
You’d think this sort of cruelty couldn’t happen in today’s NHS, wouldn’t you? Wrong. I experienced the punishment routine from a very gobby sister when I was in my local hospital. I was taking a fair amount of morphine and unbeknown to me, my femur had developed an abscess. I asked for a bottle in order to avoid walking to the toilet and was told I couldn’t have one and that I was ‘lazy’ and ‘difficult’ for not walking to the lavatory. I too called my family to complain about the harsh treatment and total lack of care. A few hours later I collapsed and was taken to the operating theatre close to death.
Doctors and nurses are universally portrayed as caring angels ministering to the sick and the vulnerable, but that isn’t always the case. I’m sure the vast majority do work hard and do care about their patients, but too many poorly trained and frankly vicious individuals manage to besmirch the profession by remaining in the employ of the NHS. I’m sure that good nurses are sick of these lazy and incompetent colleagues. Perhaps it’s time that a ‘Shop a Bad Nurse” hotline was opened before any more patients have to use their mobile phone to summon help. However, I won’t hold my breath. I think a ban on mobile phones in hospitals is more likely.