Sunderland daughter joins calls for public inquiry into government's handling of coronavirus after her mother died of illness in care home

A Sunderland woman has joined a call for a public inquiry into how the government has handled the ongoing coronavirus pandemic after her mum died suddenly in a care home.

Thursday, 21st May 2020, 4:20 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st May 2020, 4:29 pm

Sylvia Griffiths died suddenly on April 12 in a Sunderland care home and her grieving family were told she could have lost her life to Covid-19.

Now her daughter, Deborah Doyle, is among 200 families who have tragically lost loved ones calling for a public inquiry to ensure the Government’s actions are scrutinised.

The 52-year-old told the Echo she had initially received a call from her mum’s care home telling her the 76-year-old great-grandmother was breathless.

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Deborah Doyle, with her mum Sylvia Griffiths, son Daniel and grandson Dexter.

Having been prescribed antibiotics, Ms Griffiths, who did have some underlying health conditions including being prone to blood clotting, initially began to show signs of recovery but died suddenly days later.

“There is a lot of uncertainty because my mum couldn’t receive a test,” said Deborah, who has lived in Sunderland for 30 years. “The death certificate states possible Covid-19. This affected the funeral arrangements, you’re not allowed to see your loved ones.

“She’s treated as a Covid-19 death but my question is why wasn’t there a test in place at that point?”

Deborah is one of 200 people to join the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK which is leading the calls for an inquiry to ensure the Government’s actions are scrutinised.

Sylvia was 76 when she passed away .

The group has been set up by Matt Fowler, from Nuneaton, who lost his father, Ian, aged 56, to coronavirus on April 13 and Jo Goodman, from Norwich, who also lost her father, Stuart, 72, to coronavirus on April 2.

“It’s a difficult situation when you’re grieving and you can’t be around family and friends,” said Deborah about joining the group.

“I didn’t feel alone because there is other people going through exactly the same thing as myself.

“When I read more and more I saw that my mum wasn’t a one off – that’s how I joined.

Sylvia Griffiths

“We have 200 voices that aren’t statistics on a graph, they’re 200 families that are absolutely broken.

“We want to know why the lockdown wasn’t brought in earlier and why they’re starting to ease the lockdown so early.

“I want justice for the families, not just for my mam. She was a human being, she was a person.”

Deborah was previously a carer for her mum, who had mental health issues, before she moved to the care home.

“She had a fantastic sense of humour, she loved her family.

“Now she’s gone and I can’t bring her back but I can hopefully help other people.”

The families are being supported by Elkan Abrahamson, Director and Head of Major Inquiries at law firm Broudie Jackson Canter.

Mr Abrahamson, who was at the helm of the Hillsborough inquests, said: “The care home is one part of the story. It’s not just the fact they’re not all being given PPE, tests are not being carried out even now and agency staff are moving from one care home to another and could be unknowingly spreading the virus,” said Mr Abrahamson.

“The government is in a very difficult position and has done things well and has made mistakes.

“It’s not about attacking the government, it’s to find out why they took the steps they did.”

He’s also addressed the need to carry out an inquiry soon so, if there is a second spike, the government knows what steps worked and should be taken and what to avoid.

It is hoped that by opening an inquiry as soon as possible, those who have lost loved ones to Covid-19 will have their questions addressed. This includes issues surrounding lack of PPE equipment for frontline workers, the lack of widespread testing for the virus and the way care home residents have been treated.

Mr Abrahamson added: “We need to record the facts now – the chair of the inquiry should ensure that all relevant documents are maintained so that people will not be able to use the excuse that they have forgotten events. This approach will give the bereaved a forum to voice their concerns now, not in years to come when it’s too late to have effective change.

“Let’s implement the lessons we’ve learnt from other national tragedies so we can take comfort from knowing whether or not the Government have dealt with this appropriately, considering the life and death decisions that are being made now hour by hour.”

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