HEALTH bosses have apologised to a family after their mother died following a fall in a pitch-black hospital toilet.
Mary McLaughlin, an active 73-year-old, was admitted to the Western General Hospital with pneumonia and, her family was told, following routine treatment with anti- biotics would be better within a matter of days.
However, her hospital stay quickly turned to horror after she fell and broke her leg.
Mrs McLaughlin’s family claimed – following the slip – she received substandard care which led to her death within two months.
She had to be carried in agony from the bathroom on a sheet by five members of staff.
NHS Lothian chiefs today publicly apologised to the family and said lessons would be learned from the episode.
Daughter Mary Ford blasted: “The whole family is devastated.
“We are convinced that if it wasn’t for her broken leg, she would still be here today.”
The health board initially insisted the frail patient – who had been suffering hallucinations – had fallen out of bed.
However, it was later forced to admit Mrs McLaughlin had been found, screaming in agony, in a toilet.
Her family believe a protective rail on her bed should have been raised to keep her from slipping out of bed.
While an internal probe found even though she had been deemed capable of moving independently with a stick, she had not been given one at the time of the incident.
Mrs Ford, 50, described the “catastrophic series of mistakes, negligence and misleading information” her mother endured was heartbreaking.
She said: “They said the cause of death was heart disease but we think the break and all of the pressure on her body for all of those weeks killed her.”
Mrs McLaughlin, a mother-of-three, grandmother-of-four and a great-grandmother to one, had twice beat breast cancer after being treated at the Western.
She died in May but, angry with NHS Lothian’s response to their formal complaint, the family now intend to take their case to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.
“Accidents do happen, but given that she fell when they were supposed to be looking after her, you would have thought they would have been running round after her,” Mrs Ford added. “But the opposite happened.”
After breaking her leg on March 14, Mrs McLaughlin was transferred to the Royal Infirmary. An operation was scheduled but cancelled on three occasions, before finally going ahead six days after the accident.
She was transferred to a high-dependency ward to the shock of her family, who then learned a do not resuscitate order had been placed on her.
They said it remained in place even as Mrs McLaughlin was sitting up in her bed, eating ice-cream, before it was withdrawn.
After being transferred to the Royal Victoria Building for a fortnight’s rehabilitation, she was sent home with a care package, but remained in excruciating pain.
After calling NHS 24, a doctor was sent out, who the family said told them Mrs McLaughlin had been discharged far too early and advised them to go back to the Royal Infirmary.
But after spending five hours at A&E, a doctor simply sent her home again, after increasing her carer visits from two to four per day.
On May 6, the family called NHS 24 after Mrs McLaughlin’s leg turned blue.
An emergency ambulance was sent and she was rushed back to the Royal Infirmary, but she passed away in the early hours of May 8.
During the previous hospital stay she developed painful bedsores and the family had to buy Mrs McLaughlin a night dress to preserve her dignity.
Son Alex, 49, said: “They had done three or four ECG scans and said the heart wasn’t a problem. If she hadn’t broken her leg she would have been laughing with us today.”
Dr David Farquharson, NHS Lothian’s medical director, said: “The care and treatment described by Mrs McLaughlin’s family is not of the standard we aim to deliver and I would like to apologise for this and pass on my condolences to the family for their loss.
“I appreciate that this has been an extremely difficult and distressing time for the family and that this has not been helped by our clinical teams not providing accurate and consistent information.”