Woman who lost her wife to hospital-acquired Covid tells inquiry of trauma

A woman who lost her wife to a hospital-inquired coronavirus infection has recounted her traumatic experience to the UK inquiry.

Jane Morrison (pictured right), of the Scottish Covid Bereaved group, spoke to the UK Covid-19 inquiry on Tuesday morning.

Her wife, Jacky (pictured left), died in October 2020 aged 49 after contracting coronavirus while at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.

Jane, from Perthshire, raised concerns about lax infection control measures in hospitals.

Following her evidence, inquiry chair Baroness Heather Hallett said the circumstances of Jacky’s death were “truly awful”.

Responding to questions from Hugo Keith KC, Jane described how her wife first went into hospital after developing jaundice – an unrelated medical condition.

She said: “(Jacky) was in for two weeks and she caught Covid on the 15th day.”

Jacky’s scans took longer than normal because of the precautions around using equipment, the inquiry heard.

As she had been in hospital for two weeks beforehand, Mr Keith said it was “obvious” that her Covid infection was hospital-acquired – known as a nosocomial infection.

Jane said her wife’s condition quickly deteriorated.

She told the inquiry: “From the onset in that time, the Covid destroyed her lungs, her kidneys, her liver and her pancreas.”

Jane explained Jacky was not a candidate for ICU due to her condition, saying: “Once, especially, the liver failed there was nothing they could do.

“They told us both that she was dying and there was nothing, sadly, that they could do to help.”

Initially, Jane thought she would not be able to be by Jacky’s side, but the hospital “kindly” arranged for her to be there in her final moments.

However, she had to self-isolate for two weeks afterwards.

Mr Keith asked: “Did that period of isolation merely extend and aggravate your agony?”

She said: “It did indeed and there were other traumas going on at the same time.”

Jacky’s guide dog had to be returned, the couple’s border terrier had to be put down and their remaining dog had a “doggy breakdown” due to the loss of her companions, Jane said.

Jane went on to join the Scottish Covid Bereaved group, which is taking part in Lady Hallett’s inquiry as well as the separate Scottish inquiry under Lord Brailsford.

One of their greatest concerns was the perceived breakdowns in proper infection control in hospitals, she said.

There was a “glaring flaw” in that many patients were able to leave the hospital and meet with others on the hospital grounds, before returning to wards without washing their hands or using masks.

Lady Hallett’s inquiry is continuing and is nearing the end of its first module.

The Scottish Covid Bereaved group also provided written submissions to the inquiry.

Solicitor Aamer Anwar, who is representing the group, said politicians around the UK had failed to prepare for a pandemic before coronavirus hit.

He said: “We have heard that the pleas of those involved in healthcare remained unanswered by the time covid reached our shores.

“Our politicians left the NHS in such a desperate crisis, that they were barely able to deal with a winter flu, let alone a pandemic.”

He continued: “Having listened to the evidence over the past six weeks, we invited the chair to conclude that the UK and Scottish Governments failed in their obligations to protect the health of the those within it, by failing to prepare for what they knew was an inevitable pandemic.”

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