Coroner rules on death


An elderly woman whose death at a Greymouth rest home was queried by a West Coast GP died of natural causes, the coroner has ruled.
Frances Ellen Watson, 91, died at the Richard Seddon Hospital at Granger House rest home in December 2010, seven or eight hours after a fall.
At 2am on December 13, the duty nurse found Mrs Watson lying in her bedroom en suite. She was not taken to accident and emergency at Grey Base Hospital.
At 5.45am she became unwell and asked for her daughter, who remained with her until she died at 9.45am.
An attending doctor issued a medical certificate as to cause of death, but Hokitika GP Anna Dyzel, a medical referee for cremations, raised concerns with the Office of the Coroner.
Regional coroner Richard McElrea then opened an inquiry, and his findings were released yesterday.
He said pathologist Dr Martin Sage, who completed the post-mortem examination, confirmed that death was due to a heart attack. Dr Sage noted “complicating injury and accidental fall”.
Rest home owner Unimed found that it could improve support to new registered nurses, and also noted that inappropriate footwear may have contributed to the fall.
Mrs Watson’s daughter Ann Baltropp told police it looked almost as though her mother had broken her hip. Her mother had been well looked after during her years in Granger House.
Mr McElrea noted that Mrs Watson had cardiac amyloidosis and a background of Alzheimer’s-type dementia. He was satisfied the appropriate clinical steps were taken.
The coroner recommended the West Coast District Health Board and Ministry of Health, which has responsibility for oversight of rest home facilities like the Richard Seddon Hospital, ensured policies for age care providers reflected appropriate footwear for patients with a history of falls.
He said there should also be a policy on falls prevention.