English nursing home fined after Irish man dies in fall
A NURSING home company in England has been fined £100,000 after an elderly Irish man, who had lived in Britain for more than 50 years, died after he fell 15ft from a balcony in an “entirely avoidable” tragedy.
Michael Walsh, (86), had gone to the private Shelburne Hospital in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, for an operation in February 2009. He occupied a private room on the first floor that had a sliding patio-style door leading on to a small balcony.
Three days after his operation, Mr Walsh, who had worked for the Bolands Mill bakery in Dublin before he emigrated in 1953, began to suffer from periods of confusion and disorientation, Amersham Crown Court heard yesterday.
The following evening, Mr Walsh was found on the ground beneath the balcony. He had fallen and suffered a number of injuries, including a fractured vertebra. He died at Wexham Park Hospital, Slough, two days later.
BMI Healthcare Limited, of Thameside Centre, Kew Bridge Road, Brentford, Hounslow in London, pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. In addition to the £100,000 fine, the company was ordered to pay costs of £29,447.
During the court hearing, it emerged that the patio doors could not be locked.
Later health and service executive inspector Robert Meardon said: “This case graphically illustrates that hospitals need to ensure that vulnerable patients in their care are not allowed to be put at unnecessary risk.
“ accident was entirely avoidable. The hospital had not assessed the risk of someone falling off their balcony in private rooms, and had no system in place to ensure that the risks of a fall were adequately controlled.”
The patio doors should have been locked and the keys held by medical staff. “However, Mr Walsh was left alone, and he was able to get on to the balcony and fall several metres to the ground below,” said Mr Meardon. Last night, Mr Walsh’s son Fergus, who is the BBC’s medical correspondent, welcomed the court outcome, saying: “ went into hospital for a routine operation, which was successfully completed, but just days later died in terrible pain.
“It seems impossible to imagine that rooms would be fitted with patio doors that could not be locked, particularly when post-operative confusion is known to affect patients of all ages.”