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Family of Sheppey's John Brown who died at Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham tell inquest the care he received was 'inadequate'


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A Sheppey grandfather who died after contracting Covid-19 while at a Kent hospital was “just a number”, his family have told an inquest.

John Brown, from Minster, died from Covid pneumonia at Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham on December 5.

John Brown of Minster, Sheppey, died at Medway Maritime Hospital
John Brown of Minster, Sheppey, died at Medway Maritime Hospital

The 83-year-old had been admitted to the Pembroke Ward of the Windmill Road site, just over a month before his death, for an operation on his right hip which he injured after having a fall at home on the day of his late wife's funeral.

An inquest at Maidstone’s Archbishop Palace heard how in the four weeks leading up to this death Mr Brown’s family struggled to get updates on his condition.

Mr Brown was tested for coronavirus on November 20, but staff only got the results two days later and the family only found out after a text from test and trace.

He, along with six others in the ward, tested positive for the virus.

A week later his family were rung late at night by Sittingbourne Memorial Hospital and told he was being moved there and to ring again in the morning to check up on him, but by the time they woke up they had been informed he was rushed back to Medway Maritime A&E and was experiencing “breathing difficulties”.

Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham
Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham

He was this time put in Milton Ward and coroner Catherine Wood heard how his condition began to deteriorate to the point he struggled to speak to family via an iPad.

Mr Brown’s daughter-in-law Anne Brown sobbed as she told the court how on December 4 a member of staff rang the family and told them to “prepare for the worst,” before adding: “I don’t know what type of man he is, but he seems very scared.”

The following day John Brown died in hospital. His family were called and told to come to the ward, but they were not able to get there in time.

Mr Brown fell at his home on November 4, the day of his late wife Shirley’s funeral, and was taken to hospital after the wake.

Mrs Brown, his daughter-in-law, was given lasting power of attorney for him, along with her husband.

John Brown, left, from Minster, died after contracting Covid-19 while at Medway Maritime Hospital
John Brown, left, from Minster, died after contracting Covid-19 while at Medway Maritime Hospital

She told the court how Mr Brown had his operation successfully on the 5th and when she rang the following day to check on his condition, she claimed staff refused to talk to her, despite being the lasting power of attorney.

Mrs Brown, who attended the hearing virtually with her daughter Charlotte, listed multiple concerns with how the hospital dealt with her father-in-law, including vague updates on his condition, failing to let them know when he tested positive for Covid-19 and not letting them know he was being transferred to Sittingbourne Memorial Hospital in Bell Road for rehabilitation.

She said: “It didn’t feel like it was taken seriously to protect staff or patients.

"There were no proper updates on his condition and when we rang one day a staff member who was caring for him told us she didn’t know he had tested positive.

“When we arrived after he died, staff were dismissive and showed very little compassion. Our concerns fell on deaf ears.

Grandfather John Brown, from Minster, died a month after being taken to hospital for hip surgery, after he fell on the morning of his wife's funeral (52468143)
Grandfather John Brown, from Minster, died a month after being taken to hospital for hip surgery, after he fell on the morning of his wife's funeral (52468143)

“John’s care wasn’t adequate, it was well below adequate. He was just a number to them as there was no consequence.

"No compassion. No 'are you okay?', staff were very cold.”

Mr Brown’s family described him as “determined” and a “massive part of the family”.

The inquest heard from multiple Medway hospital staff, including consultants, nurses and matrons who described the "overwhelming" pressure Covid put on the hospital.

Geriatric consultant Dr Klepacz, who looked after Mr Brown when he returned to Medway hospital for a second time, said: "Mr Brown was in our care at the time the Kent variant was starting.

"We were running around like headless chickens..."

"Everything suddenly became overwhelmed by Covid. Staff were disappearing because they were unwell. It was extremely difficult and things were extremely, extremely stretched.

"We were running around like headless chickens trying to cope with the demand."

The doctor added that Mr Brown was already a vulnerable patient at risk because of his previous health problems, including lung disease.

But his family said: "If he had come home to us after his hip surgery, he would be alive today."

Coroner Catherine Wood ruled Mr Brown's death a result of natural causes.

George Findlay, Chief Executive at Medway NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘’We express our sincere condolences to the family of John Brown on their sad loss.”

For more information on how we can report on inquests, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Sheppey

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