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Woman died twice before being treated

PUBLISHED: 22:14 26 May 2004 | UPDATED: 04:54 02 March 2010

AN ELDERLY woman waited for more than three hours at hospital and died twice before receiving the treatment she needed, The Evening Star can reveal today.

AN ELDERLY woman waited for more than three hours at hospital and died twice before receiving the treatment she needed, The Evening Star can reveal today.

Bettie Smith, 78, had arrived at Ipswich Hospital, in Heath Road, hospital with agonising stomach pains but after being checked by a nurse she was told she had to join the queue.

Mrs Smith then spent hours sitting and waiting while suffering from life threatening internal bleeding.

Today her daughter Sue Gascoigne said it was not until Mrs Smith collapsed in the waiting area, that she was treated - a crash team had to be called, there was no recordable blood pressure and she twice had to be revived.

Eventually she had to undergo life saving surgery and a full blood transfusion, while devastated family members were told her survival was touch and go.

Now Mrs Gascoigne, from Rushmere St Andrew, feels what happened to her mother must be highlighted.

She has made an official complaint to the hospital who has given her their version of events and apologised that she felt it necessary to make the complaint.

But Mrs Gascoigne said she still feels some parts of her complaint have not been addressed and is going to contact the hospital again.

She added that without the expertise of the hospital staff who carried out the operation and the excellent care which she recieved afterwards at Ipswich, her mother may not be here today but she was unhappy with the treatment in the accident and emergency department.

Mrs Smith is now living back at home in Kansas, America and is fully on the mend. She had moved out there 11 years ago, following the death of her husband to be near her other daughter who had married an American serviceman.

She had been visiting her daughter and staying with a friend when the drama began on July 14 last year.

Her friend had phoned Mrs Gascoigne saying that Mrs Smith was suffering from terrible stomach pains. She had already been to her GP but the problem had been put down to a change of diet and she had been sent away with indegestion medicine.

Mrs Gascoigne, from The Fairways, said: "My mother works in a nursery school and also exercises every day and is generally regarded as being very fit. She had never been in hospital and does not take any regular medication."

But she said Mrs Smith was suffering from a ruptured gastric artery and her stomach was filling with blood.

At around 8pm the friend was so worried she called Mrs Gascoigne who took her mother to the hospital.

Her blood pressure and temperature were taken and they were told they faced a two hour wait.

But two hours after sitting on an upright, plastic chair Mrs Smith's colour began to change and she appeared to be slipping in and out of consciousness - and the waiting time had shot up to five hours.

Mrs Gascoigne said: "I was getting desperate and knew that she was really ill.

"I kept seeing younger people with things like hurt toes going in and out.

"I asked a couple of times and got told it would be soon but as her colour got worse I knew that something was really wrong."

She said that she had told the triage nurse and receptionists that her mother's condition was worsening but that no-one came to assess her.

By midnight Mrs Smith had collapsed and Mrs Gascoigne was told her mother was suffering from dehydration, but within 15 minutes she had again slipped into deep unconsciousness.

Doctors and nurses were called and the internal bleeding was found. She was rushed to theatre for surgery where she underwent a full blood transfusion and then spent a further two weeks in hospital.

In an investigation into the incident a report from the hospital said that while a formal reassessment was not undertaken during the wait a triage nurse had been going in and out of the department and had been able to observe all the patients in the waiting room and if she had any immediate cause for concern she would have been able to respond.

Jan Rowsell, spokewoman for Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust said: "Everyone's viewpoint really matters at the hospital.

"We are a learning organisation and we take very seriously what people tell us.

"We do take Mrs Gascoigne's concerns very seriously and would urge her to get back in touch if after a thorough investigation there are still things to be addressed."

Ms Rowsell said that there have been major changes and improvements to A+E since July last year including the see and treat scheme where patients are assessed by doctors as soon as they come through the door.

She added that more than 90 per cent of patients are now seen and treated or admitted to a hospital bed within four hours.

Ms Rowsell said: "That figure is getting better and better each time but we can always get better and we can always improve.

"The last thing we want to be is complacent."

What do you think? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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