Marion seeks Conquest apology for husband's death

All she wants is an apology.

Marion Ham is the widow of a 60- year-old who died after contracting MRSA at the Conquest Hospital last October.

She was shocked by the filth she saw in wards during his treatment, as well as poor hygiene and "unsatisfactory" working conditions.

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Since then, Marion has fought for Conquest bosses to admit their responsibility and make sure patients in future receive proper treatment.

Marion, of Amherst Road, Bexhill, said there was no doubt David was been killed by the deadly superbug he caught when admitted for routine minor surgery.

She is pleased that the coroner has amended his death certificate to outline MRSA as a reason for his death, and sees this as a "personal achievement" for herself and her two sons Simon and Richard.

She recently attended a meeting with Trust chief executive Kim Hodgson at Bexhill Hospital to seek an apology and a promise to improve hospital procedure and standards of hygiene.

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Marion told the chief executive that she held the Hospital Trust "totally and utterly responsible in the breach of their duty of care to my husband whilst in the Conquest Hospital, for his untimely death, his suffering in the three weeks he was there, and for the tragic loss and suffering to me, my two sons and my family."

Marion said: "Now there are two courses of action open to me, to go to civil law on one of two counts, for clinical negligence or for a breach of control of substances harmful to health COSHH (Health and Safety).

"Or I can go to criminal law and seek an injunction for corporate manslaughter, but I don't want to do that, and I have made that quite clear from the very beginning I do not want to go to litigation."

She made a number of requests - for instance that the hospital act immediately following complaints from members of the public about bad hygiene, and make changes to the cleaning programme instead of being controlled by rigid guidelines.

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She also demanded that treatment rooms next to wards be used for their original purpose, as a hygienic and private place for patients to receive attention, instead of storage or extra bedspace. She had been shocked that David had a chest drain fitted while he was in bed on the Tressell Ward, a common practice which a senior consultant later described to Marion as "unsatisfactory."

Marion remembers the patient treated in the bed next to David had no control over bodily functions and said: "Essentially, my husband was operated upon in conditions worse than a public toilet."

She understands that treatment rooms are now being used as intended but that this is part of general improvement rather than as a result of her personal intervention.

She has been waiting for a response from Kim Hodgeson before she makes her next move, and says: "All I am asking for is accountability and acceptance that mistakes are sometimes made."

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She said: "I want to tell what happened to David ... I want to say that the hospital sat up and took notice, because there are some considerable improvements that have taken place.

"I want to say that the reason I have got as far as I have got is because I haven't been gagged - once you go to litigation there is only so much you can say, but because I haven't gone down that road they haven't been able to shut me up.

"I want to tell people at this meeting that the only way they stand any chance of this not reaching epidemic proportions within our NHS hospitals is to keep the momentum going, and get the public to know how serious this matter is, and to stop thinking about compensation, and think about making the system better - because when you go for compensation, you can't speak, and that is why, I believe, NHS trusts want you to go to litigation because once you do, everybody gets exonerated ... no one person becomes accountable.

"That is what I want to get across to this meeting, to the sufferers of MRSA and relatives of victims.

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"Forget compensation, that is only for self-gratification, and it doesn't do enough good in the wider sense. Morally, it is wrong for me to seek personal gratifaction on the back of the death of my husband. I couldn't do that."

She was married to David for 38 years and describes him as "a larger-than-life character."

He was a special constable in the Hastings area for 15 years, and worked as a carer for the mentally disabled in Hastings and Bexhill for 13 years.

"He was a clown. He loved people. He would do anything for anybody - nothing was ever too much trouble. He was an avid charity campaigner for Children In Need, and he had been working really hard at becoming a magician.

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"He was an avid guitar player, and he used to take his guitar everywhere to play. He loved the Beatles...that was the man, happy go lucky, and he never took life too seriously. He is a huge loss and hugely missed by his sons and daughter-in-laws and grand-daughters."

A Hospital Trust spokesman said: "We would again like to express our condolences to Mrs Ham.

"We are sorry that the concerns she has regarding her husband's care have caused her additional distress.

"Mrs Ham has received a comprehensive response to the issues she has raised as well as meeting a number of senior staff, including the chief executive.

"If Mrs Ham remains unhappy with our response she has the option of contacting the Healthcare Commission if she wishes."