Did filthy ward lead to Ernie's death?

FILTHY conditions on a hospital ward led to an elderly man dying from an infection, his devastated daughters claimed today.Grieving Eve Rumsby and Jenny Townes are convinced that if their dad Ernie Smith hadn't gone into Ipswich Hospital, he would still be alive today.

By Tracey Sparling

FILTHY conditions on a hospital ward led to an elderly man dying from an infection, his devastated daughters claimed today.

Grieving Eve Rumsby and Jenny Townes are convinced that if their dad Ernie Smith hadn't gone into Ipswich Hospital, he would still be alive today. They say he even had to clean the toilet floor himself.

But the hospital today strongly denied its wards are filthy.

They spoke out about their family tragedy and 'exhausting' battle for the truth and to get changes made, after the Evening Star revealed the hospital's death rates following emergency surgery were slightly higher than the national average, with three out of every 100 patients dying.

Mrs Rumsby was not surprised to hear the hospital had been downgraded to a one-star star status in the Department of Health's latest performance ratings.

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She said: "My father was admitted for a routine operation to remove kidney stones, on April 21. At the begining of his stay we complained about the filthy conditions of the ward, and because of these conditions he contracted a bug which finally led to his death on July 6."

Mrs Townes, a former nursing auxilary added: "It was a real shock when he died. He was 88, but so active, fit, and independent before he went into hospital.

"He used to travel to Chelmsford on the bus to visit a friend every six weeks. He'd never taken a tablet in his life, not even had a headache, and he'd never spoken about dying because he was too busy living."

But in Woodbridge Ward at Ipswich Hospital, the women helplessly watched the weight drop off him as an infection raged undiagnosed.

"He was unrecognisable, " said Mrs Townes.

"His friend visited him, and left in tears, angry and asking what was happening to him."

The sisters claim:

Mr Smith had to wipe toilet floors himself to avoid his white circulation stockings getting ruined, and the nurse just got another pair out instead of cleaning up.

Staff didn't notice he had a problem with going to the toilet.

When they asked for a mop we were told they were all locked away, and when Mrs Rumsby asked about it later, hospital bosses said who should clean up after cleaners gone home was 'a grey area.

Mr Smith was in an isolation room, and Mrs Rumsby said she was at the hospital from April to July, but she never saw any doctors or nurses wash their hands between patients.

He complained of a sore mouth and was given a throat lozenge but it turned out to be a thrush infection.

The widower's condition continued to deteriorate, but he was discharged and transported home to Morecambe Court in Roundwood Road, Ipswich - where he was found wandering around confused five hours later and had to be readmitted.

But then he endured a five-hour wait in A&E when staff said they were too busy to take him to the toilet, despite earlier assurances he could go straight onto a ward on arrival.

St Clement's Hospital where he stayed after he became confused, was cleaner as it used a different company.

Mr Smith's daughters believe his confusion was a symptom of the infection which Mrs Rumsby 'diagnosed' herself within five minutes of searching the Internet.

The 'clostridium difficile' infection was finally discovered at his portmortem, and listed on his death certificate - along with pseudomembranous colitis which it led to.

Mrs Rumsey said: "All these hospital-acquired infections can be controlled by good hygiene - by staff washing hands. I except the elderly are more vulnerable to infection but surely that's all the more reason to make cleanliness a priority. Its false economy to skimp on cleaning. If I can see that why can't they?"

Mrs Rumsey, 48, of Brunswick Road, Ipswich, and Mrs Towne, 50, of Colchester Road, are now waiting for copies of his hospital notes which take 40 days to provide, and an inquest into his death.

She said: "I first complained about the toilets when he was on the ward, and it's been exhausting for us since. It's sad that other patients this happens to might not have relatives to pursue things, or they might be too elderly to fight for answers.

"We've been to the coronor's office, met every doctor involved, PALS, Chris Dooley and Rebecca Lay the service manager who said they have since started a dedicated cleaning programme on Woodbridge Road.

"But that's only one ward, and shouldn't there be one in every ward anyway? We don't want anyone to suffer what happened to our family. But unless things change up there, more people will die unnecessarily."

Mr Smith's death comes 17 months after our Hospitalwatch campaign brought you the story of one woman who claimed to have witnessed dirt, dust and neglect as she lay in a hospital bed, and the hospital was put on 'yellow alert' - on the middle tier of a traffic-light grading system.

It was not listed as a 'dirty hospital' by the government, and bosses at the time said it had been judged 'reasonable' but admitted improvements could be made.

Mrs Rumsey added: "I would back any campaign to turn our hospital round and get it back on the right track, but when the staff up there are so indifferent, its going to be an uphill stuggle.

"All I can say is, if my dad had not gone into hospital that Sunday he would still be with us, and Ipswich Hospital is to blame."

A spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital said: "This has clearly been a highly distressing time for Mr Smith's family and we are very sorry that their experience of the Trust has caused them to feel anger and frustration.

"We feel strongly that it is not an accurate portrayal of our actions to describe this as an 'exhausting battle'. However this is the family's perception and we have to accept this.

"From our perspective, we feel we did our best to address the issues raised by the family. A full and detailed written response to the issues raised in a written complaint was sent on June 26.

"We do not accept that our wards, including Woodbridge Ward are filthy. Infection control and cleanliness are very high priorities for the Trust. Standards of cleaning are closely monitored ad senior managers often make unannounced 'spot' checks on wards.

"Many of the bathrooms on wards are in need of updating and we have a 'rolling programme' to do this. We do accept that inevitably there are times when immediate attention to bathrooms is needed - usually this is done at once - and we have further plans in hand to make sure that a swift response is always available for this essential cleaning.

"The Patients Environment Action Team visit the Trust on a regular basis and their latest report shows that the Trust is doing well at improving cleaning standards and is making swift progress towards achieving a 'green' traffic light rating – which denotes a high standard.

"We are obviously deeply concerned about the family's comments about Mr Smith's treatment and care. Clinicians caring for Mr Smith carried out investigative tests a few days after he was admitted to Woodbridge Ward and diagnosed the Clostridium infection on April 30. Mr Smith was then moved to a side room on the ward. A doctor also attended to Mr Smith on the evening of May 3, after Mr Smith had complained of a sore mouth. Diagnosis and medication was given the following day as Mr Smith was asleep the previous evening at the time the doctor attended his bedside.

"Our letter to the family included an invitation to come back to us at any time to further discuss any issue."


Do you have a story about your experience at Ipswich Hospital? Contact the Star newsdesk on 01473 282257.





Among hospitalized patients, 20 to 40 per cent become colonized with Clostridium difficile within a few days of admission.

C. difficile is a bacterium commonly found in the intestinal tract but which, under the right circumstances such as after or during antibiotics therapy, can be the cause of inflammation of the colon and diarrhea. As C. difficile colonizes the colon, they release two toxins, toxin A and toxin B, which ultimately cause the inflammation and diarrhea.

C. difficile infection has become one of the most common hospital infections. Several million cases of diarrhea and colitis per year are thought to be caused by it.

A serious condition of the colon, Pseudomebranous colitis, may result from the C. Difficile infection when the colon wall inflammation becomes so pronounced and eroded by the toxin, that it begins to hemorrhage.

The primary treatment for a C. Difficile infection is to stop the use of the antibiotic which causes the condition.

In very rare cases surgery is required for infections that worsen or do not respond to antibiotics.

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