Belfast Telegraph

Inquest didn't tell us why my dad died after waiting seven hours in Belfast A&E for a doctor

By Harriet Crawford

The daughter of a man who waited seven hours to be seen by a doctor in an emergency unit before he died says an inquest has failed to answer crucial questions.

Norman Dunseith (57) should have been seen by a doctor within 10 minutes of being assessed by a nurse at the Mater Hospital, Belfast, but instead died of a sudden heart attack after he had waited more than seven hours.

His youngest daughter and primary carer, Sandra Gilliland (27), told the Belfast Telegraph that she felt "angry" that the inquest into her father's death left important issues unresolved.

"I think there are still questions that need to be answered," she said. "There is more to the story.

"We will just wait and see. I will go on the advice of my solicitor when he gets the formal notes from the inquest."

Mrs Gilliland said the unanswered questions surrounding her father's death in March last year had prevented her from coming to terms with it.

"I've never been able to grieve properly for waiting on this inquest, trying to get answers.

"If I knew exactly what happened that night, maybe then I would be able to." Mr Dunseith had sent his daughter home from his side in A&E because of expected snow.

After coroner Jim Kitson delivered his concluding thoughts yesterday, she said: "If I had stayed with my dad, hadn't left him that night, I would've fought for him and a doctor would have seen him sooner.

"I know he was seen by a nurse and triaged quickly.

"But after that he was just thrown in the corner and left.

"He was on his own, and he was quiet and uncomplaining, so he wasn't looked after.

"Is that what you need to do - go in and make a racket to be seen?

"Do you have to start shouting and threatening people before you're seen by a doctor?

"I am never going to leave someone in the hospital on their own."

During last month's inquest, the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust apologised for what an independent consultant called an "unacceptable" delay in the hospital's care of Mr Dunseith.

Dr Ken Fullerton said: "I would like to apologise to the family that it took so long to have a full medical assessment.

"That is not the standard of care I would expect a patient to receive."

Nearly 19 months after the death, Dr Fullerton could not reassure the family that it would not be repeated.

"I do not have assurance that such a circumstance could not arise again," he said.

Mrs Gilliland said yesterday: "To me, that now seems as if it was a publicity stunt.

"They said sorry for the wait, but yet they said that it could happen again. They haven't fixed it."

Mr Kitson told the five family members in court: "This has been a very upsetting and distressing experience for all of you."

He expressed a hope that the trust's acceptance of its mistakes went "some way" to provide the family with the information they sought.

Background

The retired hospital porter was taken to the Mater Hospital, Belfast, by ambulance and admitted with shortness of breath.

Within three minutes he was assessed by a nurse as requiring "very urgent" care. He had been placed in the second-most urgent category of care by the hospital's triage system, and should then have been seen by a doctor within 10 minutes.

However, Mr Dunseith was not seen by a doctor until 4.55am - seven hours and 13 minutes after his admission.

He went in to full cardiac arrest shortly afterwards and was pronounced dead at 5.40am on March 23, 2013.

A&E consultant Colin Holburn said staffing levels had been "inadequate" and Mr Dunseith had received "substandard care" with "a lack of urgency".

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