THE question of whether a cup of tea was ever spilt on a pensioner in a care home and contributed to her death was raised at an inquest today.
The hearing at Portsmouth Guildhall heard conflicting evidence about an alleged incident involving Margaret Young at Beechcroft Manor Nursing Home in Alverstoke, Gosport.
As reported previously, it is alleged that a mug of tea was spilt on the 72-year-old on June 12 last year.
Five days after the incident she was taken to Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, with an infected wound near her stomach.
The retired geriatric nurse, who had on-going health problems after surviving three bouts of cancer, died three days later.
Agency nurse Bestman Owhondah, who was working a night shift and brought the tea to Mrs Young, claimed she had spilt the tea on herself.
The tea in a china mug had been placed on an adjustable table on the side of Mrs Young’s bed so she could reach it herself.
When he and a colleague returned about an hour later to get Mrs Young ready for bed, a reddened mark was spotted on the right side of her abdomen, he claimed.
Mr Owhondah said: ‘There was no spilled drink on the floor. There was no spilled drink on the magazines she had on the table.’
He told the inquest that he told his colleague nurse, Maria Ebsworth, who was employed full-time at the care home, about the red mark.
He said that she said it was nothing to worry about.
He said the bed clothes were wet and changed because of the spillage.
But Mrs Ebsworth claimed the conversation about a spillage never happened on the night of June 12 and that she never saw a reddened mark, nor were the bed clothes changed.
She said the health of patients was her top priority and she would have reported it immediately.
The inquest heard that nurses noticed the red mark the day after, on June 13, and the GP was called.
Usha George, who was the nurse in charge on June 12, arrived for her night shift the following evening and was told by matron about a tea spillage.
Mrs George told the court: ‘Maggie told her a black man spilled her tea on her.’
Mr Owhondah was then asked to fill in an accident report - a procedure he had never done before and was uncomfortable to attempt at first as he was a temporary worker.
In his report, he said that Mrs Young believed the cup of tea was not in the right place, but he said she was ‘confused or ill’ at that time.
But in cross-examination by barrister Lincoln Brooks, acting on behalf of the care home, Mr Owhonhah was accused of ‘embellishing’ the story after he panicked when the GP had visited Mrs Young the next day.
Mr Brooks, whose case is that the care home is not aware of any spillage ever happening, said the accident report given by Mr Owhondah was ‘unnecessarily complicated and unnecessarily incorrect’.
As reported, Mrs Young’s widower, Peter Young, 83, said Mr Owhondah told him what happened with the tea spilling and that nursing staff played down the incident.
He accepts it may have been an accident, but criticises the care she received afterwards.
Mrs George said the red mark was not given a dressing as it did not appear sore or broken and they had no instructions to do that by the GP.
Instead, skin cream was applied.
An audit test at the care home replicated the tea round on June 12. It concluded that by the time the tea reached Mrs Young - who was at the end of the round as she was on the fourth floor - the temperature of milky tea would be 40C. That’s about the temperature of a warm bath.
A police report said the death was not being treated as suspicious.
A pathologist’s report revealed Mrs Young died of sepsis, caused when the body overreacts to an infection, as well as long-standing heart, kidney and lung problems.