Seven years after a patient at Karin Grech hospital choked to death whilst eating chicken, criminal proceedings against three members of the nursing staff have been concluded.
The nurses, 61-year-old Maria Bondin of Paola, 59-year-old Carol Bonnici of Siggiewi and 34-year-old David Sant of Gharghur, had been charged with involuntary homicide following the incident which goes back to 7 March 2012.
The nurses on their part insisted on their innocence in regard to the death of the patient, at the time aged 64 years.
The man, who suffered from dementia and who needed to be assisted during meal times, was in the hospital when he choked on the food and was found face down in the bathroom.
Lawyer Stefano Filletti, appearing for the victim’s widow, described the man’s death as resembling a Charles Dickens novel. The lawyer said the man had taken a piece of food and gone to the bathroom, adding that this was where he eventually breathed his last, face down and gripping the toilet bowl. The lawyer insisted this incident could have been avoided.
The victim, who had a problem with chewing and who had been placed on a soft food diet, had been given a chicken meal. At the time chicken was classified as soft food under hospital regulations. The meat, however, had to be served to the patient in a well chopped up state. Dr Filletti stressed that none of the nurses had checked the plate, which duty fell under medical responsibility and not under the food providers. The lawyer further stressed that someone should have remained with the patient while he was eating, and the staff had been negligent in their duties.
Nurses’ defence counsel reiterated that the system had failed, rather than the staff, adding that as a result of the system failure, the hospital had changed its rules.
Dr Stephen Tonna Lowell, appearing for one of the nurses, stressed that the magisterial inquiry was not conclusive, and the Police had been asked to continue to investigate.
The lawyer added that the inquiry, which had been concluded in 2012, had left many questions unanswered, including why chicken had been classified as soft food. The lawyer added that after this case, chicken had been classified under ‘regular diet’, and asked how chicken could be pulped since there was no liquidiser in the ward, and the cutlery was made of plastic.
The lawyer added that his client, one of the nurses, had to take care of two patients in different rooms, adding that it was impossible for him to be with two patients at the same time.
Dr Michael Sciriha and Dr Joseph Grech, who appeared for the other two nurses, agreed that something in the running of the hospital had gone wrong, and evidence of this was that things had been changed after the incident.
Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech adjourned the case to March for sentencing.