Woman, 93, dies after being found 'freezing cold' in town care home

NEGLECT was a factor in the death of a 93-year-old woman who was found freezing cold" with only a thin blanket to cover her at an Exmouth care home, an inquest heard.

NEGLECT was a factor in the death of a 93-year-old woman who was found "freezing cold" with only a thin blanket to cover her at an Exmouth care home, an inquest heard.Winifred Pearce, a resident at The Mulberry care home for people with dementia, was rushed to hospital on December 15, 2007, suffering from pneumonia and suspected hypothermia. She died the same day.The inquest, held at Honiton Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, was told Mrs Pearce had been diagnosed with a chest infection two days before her death.But she never received antibiotics because they had, by mistake, been delivered to the wrong pharmacy.The inquest heard no-one from the care home chased up the missing prescription until the day Mrs Pearce was rushed to hospital.In written evidence, Sidonna Scanes, who was acting senior carer at the time of Mrs Pearce's death, admitted being "out of her depth".The coroner heard that paramedics who were called to the care home on the day of the death were alarmed to find Mrs Pearce in a cold room.Darren Sutton, who attended the 999 call, said "it was colder in the room than outside" and Mrs Pearce, who was wearing a thin nighty, was "freezing cold to the touch".Several members of staff who gave evidence said Mrs Pearce's room was one of the colder rooms at the home. Shirley Jones told the coroner that, on the day of the death, Mrs Pearce's room was "colder than normal". In a written statement, Francisco Benez, a former care assistant at the home, said he noticed on the night before she died that the radiator control in her room was broken. However, the inquest heard that care home maintenance records showed nothing had been logged in the recent time before or after Mrs Pearce's death and that monthly temperature checks had not been carried out between October and December 2007.Rita Smitneice, who was a care assistant, said, in a written submission, that the room was often cold, but she thought Mrs Pearce's son, Fred - who worked at the care home as a maintenance technician - would have said something if anything was "wrong".Some staff, called to give evidence, said they were not allowed to change the temperature in the care home because it interfered with the thermostat.The inquest also heard that staff had previously complained about the building being cold during the night, but they were told by Peter De Groop, owner of the care home, to "put another jumper on".Mr De Groop, giving evidence, said he did not visit the care home in the early hours of the morning previous to Mrs Pearce's death and he was not directly in charge of maintenance.He said there were no regulations to suggest a minimum temperature in care homes, but staff could adjust individual temperature gauges in rooms to meet the requirements of each resident. John Pearce, Mrs Pearce's son, told the inquest he had no qualms about his mother's care at the home and he was "satisfied" with all of the evidence given.Dr Elizabeth Earland, the Exeter and Great Devon Coroner, recorded a verdict of death through natural causes to which neglect contributed.She said: "I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to the family."It is essential people in a dependent care situation are looked after and this is why we have inquests."After the inquest, Geoffrey Cox, of Southern Healthcare, which is in the process of taking over the care home, assured residents they would raise standards.He said: "All of our homes have good CSCI inspections (Commission for Social Care Inspection) and our plan will be to bring the home to the same standards pretty swiftly.