A fit and healthy woman bled to death in a UK hospital after errors in a routine back operation just weeks after hospital staff warned bossed that budget cuts were putting patients’ lives at risk.
Andrea Green, 42, died 14 hours after the surgery at Barnsley District General Hospital during which a surgeon accidentally operated on the wrong disc and ruptured her artery.
After the operation, which the woman may not even have needed, Ms. Green lay in pain as staff failed to spot the error.
According to The Telegraph, her life could have been saved if hospital staff had noticed their mistake, even by a margin of just 30 minutes before her death.
The tragedy is compounded by the emergence of a letter sent by staff from the hospital’s orthopedic department to heads warning of “grave risks to patients” and “extreme pressure and stress” because of staff-cutting.
The letter was sent to former chief executive Sharon Taylor and specifically stated that “it was only a matter of time before the situation led to significant patient morbidity and mortality.”
Such was the bombshell effect of the letter that it halted the inquest into Ms. Green’s death last year and resulted in the coroner Chris Dorries asking police to investigate.
Ms. Green began suffering from back pain in August 2009. Her condition led to her becoming bedridden for two weeks. She was prescribed with painkillers by her local doctor on numerous occasions.
After a referral to the orthopedic clinic at Barnsley Hospital, the clinic diagnosed her as suffering from a prolapsed [herniated] disc.
Medical sources note that a prolapsed (herniated, slipped) is where one of discs in the spine ruptures and the gel inside leaks out. Invariably this causes pain in the back and other areas because the sciatic nerve — the longest nerve in the body — runs from the length of the lower half of the human body.
Typically, sufferers are advised to continue their normal activities as much as possible with the aid of painkillers. Physical therapy often helps and in most cases surgery is a last resort.
Ms. Green agreed to surgery after doctors at the clinic told her it was the best course. The operation took place in March 2010. But when Ms. Green’s sister Janette Allatt visited her in hospital after the surgery, she says her sister was “very pale and complaining of stomach pain,” Mail Online reports.
Nurses later discovered Ms. Green had very low blood pressure and gave her medication to relieve her pain. At 2 am the following morning, Ms. Green’s father received a telephone call from the hospital saying that she was seriously ill. By the time the family arrived at the hospital, she had died.
Mrs. Allatt, 56, said:
“I never expected anything like this to happen. We have so many questions about what happened to Andrea and believe if it wasn’t for the surgery, she would still be here today.”
A report from the post mortem exam has listed the cause of Ms. Green’s death as retroperitoneal haemorrhage (internal bleeding). The report suggested the wrong disc had been operated on and that the bleeding occurred during the operation.
Ms. Green’s family lodged a claim for medical negligence which has now been settled out of court for a six-figure sum. Andrew Harrison, head of medical negligence at Raley’s solicitors, who represented the family, said the internal bleeding after the operation should have been spotted and treated by doctors.
“They could have saved her for up to 30 minutes before she died. They had got all the information if someone cared to look,” he added.
The doctor who performed the operation on Ms. Green is still working at the hospital under supervision. A spokesman for Barnsley District General Hospital released a statement which read:
“We are extremely sorry for the loss suffered by Andrea’s family. We treat the safety of our patients as an utmost priority. After Andrea’s death we began a full internal investigation and also sought the views of external experts. We have fully implemented all of the changes recommended by those investigations.”
“The letter and its contents are a matter for consideration at the inquest and it would therefore be inappropriate for us to comment further.”