Leyton News Walthamstow

Heavily pregnant teacher died at Whipps after days on ‘inappropriate ward’

Both Sumera and her unborn daughter Arya died at the hospital last year
By Victoria Munro

Sumera Haq and her four-year-old daughter (courtesy of family)
Sumera Haq and her four-year-old daughter (courtesy of family)

Whipps Cross “likely” could have saved an eight months pregnant teacher from Leyton who died during last August’s Covid spike, an inquest has found.

Sumera Haq, a 37-year-old teacher at South Grove Primary School in Walthamstow, died on 14th August last year from multiple organ failure, Covid-19 and an aggressive internal bleed.

Her husband Kasim Butt told an inquest last month she first reported stomach pain to the hospital on 31st July but was told it was muscle pain from her Covid cough.

Sumera was admitted to the maternity ward on 7th August but moved to an acute ward two days later because maternity nurses were not confident they could treat her Covid-related pneumonia.

This was an “inappropriate” place for her, according to east London coroner Nadia Persaud, but a lack of beds in critical care and a staff shortage in the maternity unit meant she stayed there until going into cardiac arrest on the 12th.

Sumera with her husband Kasim and their children (courtesy of family)

In his evidence to the inquest, Kasim said: “They said our baby had died and they had rushed her to theatre because she had a bleed in her stomach. I was left in shock and lost all my senses.

“They asked me if I wanted to see my daughter, which I did. Ayra was beautiful and I just held her and cried my eyes out in that room for at least an hour.”

Despite being moved to the intensive care unit, Sumera died two days later. Kasim added: “It was the hardest moment of my life watching her slip away.

“I could not stop thinking about our two children, who are seven and four, and how I would tell them that mummy is not coming home.

“She was an amazing wife, very loving, very caring and always giving. She was passionate about teaching and had been a primary school teacher for at least ten years.”

He added that an external consultant, Dr Mamoun Abu-Habsa, told him at the time that he felt “something had gone terribly wrong” with her care.

While the maternity ward, where Sumera was first admitted, had a nurse for every two patients, the nurses on the acute ward were responsible for six patients each.

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In the two days before her sudden collapse, doctors on the acute ward also failed to check her blood results, which showed “concerningly low” haemoglobin.

Sumera died at just 37 years old (courtesy of family)

In her concluding statements, Ms Persaud said Sumera’s death “is likely to have been avoided” if she had been “cared for in an appropriate setting”, if her concerning blood results had been investigated or if she had received “early medical attention” after she began deteriorating on the 12th.

She concluded: “Her death was contributed to by lack of clinical leadership and lack of close monitoring.”

During the inquest, she asked Dr Jason Gittens, Whipps’ clinical lead for critical care, why Sumera was not either admitted to critical care or moved to another hospital.

Dr Gitten said: “It’s very easy to say this in retrospect but a lot was happening at the time. We had to take into consideration the safety of other patients, including those also outside critical care who were at 40 and 60% oxygen.

“On that day, bed occupancy was 100%. [Admitting her] would mean either having to transfer another patient out or transferring her to another hospital.

“Transferring patients does carry a risk and you also have to be sure that the [other] hospital has the capacity, you do not want to transfer someone to the same situation.”

Ms Persaud responded: “I completely understand that this was not an easy time for the hospital… but it was reasonably foreseeable that she could have a rapid deterioration. What she needed was close monitoring and that was not provided to her on the acute ward.”

Following the conclusion of the inquest, Kasim told the Echo: “While listening to the evidence has been incredibly traumatic, it was something I needed to do to honour Sumera’s memory.

 “I know nothing can bring Sumera back, or fill the void in our lives, but our family take some comfort in at least now having some answers to our questions. I just hope nobody else has to go through the pain we have.”

Taylor Hackett, a medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell who represented Kasim, added: “It’s now vital that lessons are learned following the several concerns that the inquest has identified in Sumera’s care.

“In the meantime, we’ll continue to support the family to help them try and come to terms with their loss the best they can at this distressing time.”

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