Rainham woman who died of Covid 'likely' caught virus in hospital

Iris Pearson

Iris Pearson, 79, died at Queen's Hospital, Romford in March. - Credit: Martin Pearson

The son of a Rainham woman who died of Covid-19 has called on an NHS trust to take "better precautions" after it admitted that she was likely to have contracted the virus in hospital.

Martin Pearson complained to Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT) about its treatment of his mother Iris, 79, who died at Queen's Hospital in March.

Iris' death certificate shows she died of Covid-19, with heart failure as a contributory factor.

In a response to Martin's complaint, the trust's chief executive Tony Chambers said: "It is likely although not definite that Mrs Pearson could have developed Covid-19 whilst in hospital."

He offered an "unreserved" apology and acknowledged the trust "do not always get it right".


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Martin wants tighter procedures to be put in place by the trust, adding: "It is about making sure other people don't go through the same kind of thing.

"What they should be doing is taking better precautions when there are people who are obviously going to be in trouble if they get Covid."

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He revealed his mother had a history of heart concerns and was first admitted to Queen's on February 3 with swollen ankles, which he said is a sign of the heart not pumping fluid properly.

Queen's Hospital, Romford. Picture: Ken Mears

Tony Chambers, chief executive of BHRUT, which runs Queen's Hospital (pictured), said it was "likely" Iris Pearson contracted Covid-19 at the hospital. - Credit: Ken Mears

In the trust's letter, it confirmed that Iris tested negative for Covid on the day she was admitted and on February 5.

She was tested again on February 13 and placed on a "yellow" ward for patients who are not confirmed as Covid positive but being assessed for it.

The swab came back as positive and she was moved onto a ward with other Covid patients, which Mr Chambers said was trust policy at the time.

He wrote that a positive test for Covid ten days after coming into Queen's meant it was "likely" she developed the virus there.

The trust boss said Iris was admitted to hospital at the peak of the second wave when Havering, Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham had among the highest prevalences of the virus in the country.

Iris, a Rainham resident for more than 40 years, passed away at the Romford hospital on March 10.

Martin, who lives in the Netherlands, said he complained to BHRUT because he wants to make sure the same thing does not happen to anyone else.

He recalled how one of his mother's friends said an ambulance was needed for her: "She (Iris) was delaying because she was scared of going into hospital because she thought she would get Covid and die."

The IT security worker claims he only knew she was in Queen's from her phone and that the hospital did not tell him she had been moved to a Covid ward.

"I feel that the hospital treats the patient as a product that they have to process to do their job.

"It's like a factory and the patient is a product who goes through that factory that maybe makes it out the other end and maybe does not."

Tighter procedures from the hospital would bring closure, he said.

"Then for me, it's over and we've in some way helped another person not go through the same thing and that's really important.

"She was a really caring person that wanted to look after everybody and put everybody else's interests ahead of her own."

Magda Smith, BHRUT's chief medical officer, said: “We offer our condolences to Mr Pearson on the loss of his mother and understand this is a very difficult time for him.

“Throughout the pandemic, our teams have worked extremely hard to keep our patients safe from this highly infectious virus."

She explained this included testing all patients for Covid-19 on admission and several times throughout their hospital stay, as well as regular staff testing.

Separate areas for Covid and non-Covid patients have also been put in place at the trust's hospitals, "rigorous" infection prevention and control measures such as PPE and social distancing, and see-through plastic curtains between beds to keep patients separate, she added. 

More than 1,600 BHRUT patients tested positive for Covid within 28 days of death.

The latest trust figures, from April 21, show there were just nine patients with Covid at Queen's and King George hospitals.

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