Husband not told wife had tested positive for Covid-19 until she died

PUBLISHED: 17:49 18 August 2020 | UPDATED: 08:25 19 August 2020

Bob Harvey and his wife Ermitas, who died from Covid-19 in April. Picture: Bob Harvey

Bob Harvey and his wife Ermitas, who died from Covid-19 in April. Picture: Bob Harvey

Bob Harvey

The husband of a woman who died of Covid-19 just 10 minutes after returning from hospital was unaware she had tested positive for the virus until after her death.

Bob Harvey and his wife Ermitas on their wedding day 40 years ago. Picture: Bob HarveyBob Harvey and his wife Ermitas on their wedding day 40 years ago. Picture: Bob Harvey

Ermitas Havey was 81 when she died on April 7 this year at her home in Wymondham, the same day she was discharged from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital having shown signs of improvement.

However, a breakdown in communication at the time - which the hospital says has now has been addressed - meant her husband, Bob Harvey, did not learn she had tested positive until after she died that afternoon, an inquest heard.

Mr Harvey, 71, has described feeling like “a boat without a rudder” after losing his wife, with whom he was close to celebrating a 40th wedding anniversary.

Mrs Harvey was admitted to hospital on April 4, having dialed 111 after experiencing shortness of breath and a cough for around 10 days and while receiving treatment there she tested positive for the virus.

She spent some time on a respirator, but Luaie Idris, a respiratory consultant at the hospital, told the inquest that she was showing signs of improvement and by April 7 had “sufficient” oxygen levels to be sent home.

When asked by senior coroner Jacqueline Lake why she had been discharged, he said it was felt her condition had improved to a point that she would benefit from continuing her recovery at home.

She returned home on the afternoon of April 7 but died 10 minutes after paramedics left her.

But it was not until after her death that Mr Harvey learned of his wife’s positive test, after noticing that undertakers had removed her bed sheet.

He said: “I was in total shock, one minute it was the joy of having my wife back and the next minute she was gone - she literally lasted 10 minutes.

“I just felt helpless, I didn’t really know what the heck was going on. When these things happen you are in a state of shock and Ermi was a lovely and tidy woman, so I went in to make the bed and noticed the sheet was gone.

“I was her main carer, but I also have a heart condition so feel I was vulnerably to catching the virus too.”

Dr Idris said that while it was not a requirement for the hospital to inform him of the test, that it would have been “best practice” to do so and apologised to Mr Harvey.

Concluding she had died of natural causes, Ms Lake said: “Mrs Harvey a tragic victim of Covid-19. She died in the very early stages of the pandemic and as a result her husband could not go to hospital with her or go with her in the ambulance.

“As a result he was also not able to visit her or speak to doctors and so was kept out of what was going on. This led to Mr Harvey clearly feeling left out of the process so I have great sympathy for him.”

Sonia Appleton, a legal representative for the trust, said that it had since addressed the communication issues experienced in the early phases of the pandemic, which included setting up a new team specifically for this function.

She said: “A lot of work has been undertaken in the recent months. We set up a new communications team and have provided iPads to patients and relatives where we are concerned they were not seeing family.”

A NNUH spokesman said: “Our deepest condolences remain with Mrs Harvey’s family and friends for their loss.

“The beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic was an unprecedented time for the health service. Our teams were continually reacting and adapting to the challenges throughout the pandemic and implemented virtual visiting and a relatives’ liaison team to keep patients and loved ones connected when visiting was not possible.

“Sadly, this was not in place at the time of Mrs Harvey’s death and we acknowledge that this may have helped to improve communication with her husband.

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