A CARE worker whose disabled patient died after a fall from a hoist told an inquest that “everything was in place” to ensure the safety of the sling.
On the second day of the hearing into the death of cerebral palsy sufferer Anne Rowell Elliott, 63, it also emerged that she was transported to hospital in a minibus rather than by ambulance.
Tragedy struck as Ms Elliott – a resident at Care and Support Sunderland Limited (CSSL) in Midmoor Road, Pallion, for the past 13 years – had been getting help from carers for a trip to the MetroCentre on November 20.
She fell out of a sling, attached to a hoist above the bed and landed in a gap between the bed and wheelchair, suffering massive head injuries.
An inquest jury at Sunderland Coroner’s Court had previously heard evidence from mechanical engineer Michael Brown, who has carried out reconstructions of the fall, that if all four straps, two for Ms Elliott’s shoulders and two for her thighs, were correctly attached, she would be unable to fall out.
“There must have been something that wasn’t quite as per, from the information given to us,” he said, adding that the incident could have been prevented.
The jury and Sunderland Coroner Derek Winter yesterday heard evidence from support workers John Emmerson, Karen Ramage and Kimberley Brown.
Mr Emmerson, who operated the hoist, said Ms Elliott “may have” fallen out of the top of the sling, adding: “I’m not sure how Anne came out.”
He said all four straps were attached, adding: “It’s something that we do automatically.”
When asked about his differing account to that of expert witness Mr Brown, Mr Emmerson said: “My opinion is that I can’t agree, because everything was in place.”
The jury heard how after the incident, Ms Elliott was taken out of the sling and placed in a different one.
“I think we just took it off when we realised we had to get Anne to hospital,” Mr Emmerson added. “We weren’t sure if something had happened to it so we decided to use another sling as a precaution.”
Ms Ramage said she had her back turned at the time, as she was getting bedding out of a wardrobe. “I heard a thump, or a thud,” she said. “I turned around and was expecting to see Anne in the hoist. The sling was actually intact, but Anne was not in it. I just got such a shock. I looked at the sling and saw that all four points were in place.”
She said they checked on Ms Elliott, who was still conscious, and decided to put her in a different sling before placing her in the wheelchair. “
We decided to use the minibus to take Anne to hospital, because if you call an ambulance you have to wait a long time.”
Ms Brown said Ms Elliott’s wheelchair had been outside the room charging over night, so she got it ready and brought it into the room. She said she saw Ms Elliott fall “out of the corner of my eye” and said she felt “total panic” and immediately went to tend to her.
“I said ‘how has this happened? And I think it was John who said the four points were still in place, but I didn’t look.”
Ms Elliott later fell unconscious in hospital and developed a chest infection before she died.
A post mortem concluded that she died from a blunt head injury, which caused a bleed on the brain. She also broke two ribs in the fall, and had bruising to the left side of her face and her left shoulder.
The inquest continues today.