Nurse's 'heartbreak' over hospital care as her father dies on Covid ward
- Credit: IAN BURT
The huge pressure being placed on overstretched staff at a hospital coronavirus ward has been highlighted by a nurse who has described the heartbreaking final hours of her father's life.
The nurse, who worked at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) for 30 years, asked not to be identified as she is still in the profession, but said she was "appalled" by the conditions on the wards.
The hospital said it was sorry to hear of her concerns. A spokesman said it was under "extreme pressure". There are more than 300 patients being treated at the NNUH and it launched an appeal for staff and volunteers to help it last week.
It said dozens of non-clinical staff had been redeployed to help with mealtimes and hydration of patients on the wards.
It also said 60 new healthcare assistants were joining this week, while 30 military medics are also being brought in to help.
The nurse's father, a 76-year old great-grandad from Norwich, was admitted to the NNUH at the end of December with pneumonia and tested positive for Covid.
She was allowed to spend the last three days of his life in early January visiting him.
“I was appalled by what I saw,” she said. “His water jug was empty, there was dried up food in a tray left on one side which had not been touched.
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“His mouth was so parched he had dried mucus all around his dentures.
“I pulled up the covers and he was soaking wet. What I thought was a coffee spill were urine stains.
“I then asked for help to change him and I noticed he had no bottoms on.
"There was also a bottle of urine left underneath his bed for the whole three days I was there. I asked for it to be removed more than once but it wasn’t.”
She also saw him unshaven for the first time in his life.
“My dad worked as a civil servant for 40 years," she said. "To be left like this at the end of his life is appalling.
“I said to a nurse on the ward, ‘I’m really disappointed, the least you could have done was to make my dad clean and dry’ and she said they were short staffed.”
After that first visit she returned every day to look after her dad, until he died three days later.
She spoke out after a senior staff member at the NNUH told this newspaper last week that some patients were not being discovered dead in bays until the following morning because nurses had up to 18 patients to look after on some night shifts.
She also said the six-bay ward offered no privacy in death.
“The man opposite dad died the day before him. I told a nurse and it took more than 45 minutes for them to come in and see him.
“My heart breaks for these people.”
Her dad was 76 and shielded in the first lockdown, but she said this time around he wanted to keep his independence by driving his car for a weekly shopping trip, as he could not face being in the house all week.
“He was a very proud man," she said.
The NNUH's chief nurse, Professor Nancy Fontaine, said: “We take feedback about patients’ care and experience extremely seriously and we are very sorry to hear of this family’s concerns.
"We would urge them to get in touch so we can answer their questions and concerns directly.”
The latest figures show almost 350 Covid patients being treated at the NNUH, including 33 in intensive care. Last week 90pc of its beds were full.
Norwich South MP Clive Lewis said: "I feel so sorry for the wonderful staff at our NNUH and everyone in health and social care in our city. They are at the sharp end of what has become a quite terrifying local healthcare crisis."
He has written to the health secretary Matt Hancock asking for urgent measures to help the hospital.
A message to staff from the hospital's leadership last week said they should be proud of their work.
"We want to thank each and every one of you from the bottom of our hearts for what you’re doing, day in and day out – you are all truly amazing.
"As a leadership team, we’re doing everything we can to support you too and will continue to do so over the coming weeks."
It added: "Times are hard now but there is hope and there is light at the end of the tunnel. Our vaccination programme is going brilliantly."
The hospital has successfully treated more than 900 people for coronavirus, while 324 have died since the outbreak began.