Scandal of healthy grandmother who died in hospital after going without food for seven days
07:04 GMT, 30 July 2012
A healthy, active grandmother died in hospital after she was denied food and water for more than a week.
Joan Pertoldi, 76, was put on a nil-by-mouth regime while she waited for a routine hip operation at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Welwyn Garden City.
Her family was told she would be operated on within 48 hours but the procedure was put off three times – twice because the prosthesis due to be inserted into the joint was not properly sterilised.
Mrs Pertoldi was put on a nil-by-mouth regime when she was admitted (picture posed by model)
Other delays occurred because there weren’t enough staff at weekends.
The operation eventually went ahead eight days after she was admitted but, severely weakened, Mrs Pertoldi never recovered and died in hospital a few weeks later.
During her stay, Mrs Pertoldi was dropped by nurses on one occasion because they failed to consult physiotherapists’ notes which explained how much assistance she needed to walk.
After becoming dehydrated, Mrs Pertoldi developed a urinary infection which, the family say, lead to blood poisoning because doctors failed to tackle the problem.
She also developed a blocked bowel and contracted superbug clostridium difficile which caused her organs to fail, leading to her eventual death.
Hertfordshire coroner, Edward Thomas has now ordered the hospital to investigate the blunders and her family are considering legal action, claiming she died due to neglect.
The pensioner’s daughter, Anna Pertoldi, said: ‘The treatment my mother received in hospital was disgraceful. When mum went into hospital she was in good spirits. But because of the cancellations she was left weak and then quickly went downhill.
The mother was eventually treated eight days after arriving at the Welwyn Garden City hospital (picture posed by model)
‘Being left on nil-by-mouth was just one of a number of failings my mother had to suffer. Basic standards of care and nursing weren’t there.’
The Daily Mail as highlighted substandard care in its Dignity for the Elderly campaign.
But Mrs Pertoldi’s case also comes after an inquest into the death of 22-year-old Kane Gorny, who died of dehydration while in hospital for a hip operation.
He phoned police from his bed because he was so thirsty but staff at St George’s Hospital in London, told officers he was confused and sent them away.
Mrs Pertoldi, who enjoyed looking after her two grandchildren, was admitted to hospital on August 5, 2009 after a fall in her garden.
During seven of the eight nights before her operation, she was not allowed food water as she was expected to undergo the procedure the following day but it was postponed three times at the last moment.
Anna Pertoldi told a Sunday newspaper: ‘Each day the focus was on getting down to theatre and having the procedure. That’s why we listened to the doctors and made sure mum didn’t eat or drink.’
Caron Heyes, the solicitor representing Mrs Pertoldi’s family, said she ‘should have sailed through the surgery’ but died as a result of preventable delays and neglect.
She added: ‘Failure to ensure nourishment of Joan Pertoldi would have created a risk of mortality for her that had not previously been present.’
East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust offered ‘deepest sympathies’ to the family.
Director of nursing Angela Thompson added: ‘We now have a dedicated fractured hip unit at QEII. Since being created, we have seen a significant improvement in both the clinical quality of care as well as patients.’