HOSPITAL bosses said they were “extremely sorry” after a woman bled to death following routine surgery for a back problem which may have been unnecessary in the first place.
Administrator Andrea Green, 42, died just 14 hours after the operation at Barnsley District Hospital after a surgeon mistakenly cut an artery, an error which was not picked up.
Her death came just weeks after staff in the hospital’s orthopaedic department warned managers in a letter about grave risks to patients because of staff cuts.
An inquest was halted earlier this year by Sheffield coroner Chris Dorries who asked police to investigate following the emergence of the letter. A file was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service which looked into evidence of corporate manslaughter but no proceedings followed owing to insufficient evidence.
Ms Green’s family then lodged a claim for medical negligence which has now been settled out of court for a six-figure sum.
Andrew Harrison, head of the medical negligence team at Barnsley-based Raley’s solicitors, said serious internal bleeding after the operation should have been spotted and treated by doctors.
“They could have saved her for up to 30 minutes before she died. They had got all the information if someone cared to look.”
Ms Green, of Carlton, Barnsley, began suffering back pain in October 2009 and it was so bad at times she was bedridden and had to be cared for by family members.
She was diagnosed as suffering from a prolapsed (herniated) disc and was listed for surgery. The condition can, however, resolve itself over time without the need for further treatment and by the time the operation was due six months later she was feeling much better. She was told by doctors, however, if she did not have an operation the pain could return.
Mr Harrison said: “The decision was made to operate, although by that time she had recovered a remarkable amount. There was a question whether she needed the operation at all.
“The consultant orthopaedic surgeon was supposed to scrape away the protruding portion of the disc to relieve the pain but everything went wrong. He went straight in and got the wrong disc.
“He failed to recognise there was nothing wrong with the disc but operated on it anyway although it was healthy. While he was doing that he went all the way through the disc and ruptured an artery.
“He did not know he had ruptured the artery so Andrea was stitched back up and sent to recover. She basically then bled to death over 14 hours without anybody noticing.
“It would not have been a complex problem to fix; she just needed more blood and the artery repairing. The whole event was quite astonishing.”
Ms Green’s sister Janette Allatt said she agreed to the surgery even though her back problem had eased because she did not want it to return.
Mrs Allatt, 56, said: “I just remember being in total and absolute shock. I never expected anything like this to happen.”
The hospital was warned of “extreme pressure and stress” in the letter just weeks before Ms Green’s death in March, 2010. It was sent to former chief executive Sharon Taylor and referred to a meeting between her and medical director Dr Jugnu Mahajan in which the orthopaedic team warned of danger to patients.
The letter says: “We stated that it was only a matter of time before the situation led to significant patient morbidity and mortality.”
The surgeon who performed the operation on Ms Green is still working at the hospital under supervision.
A spokesman for the hospital said: “We are extremely sorry for the loss suffered by Andrea’s family. We treat the safety of our patients as an utmost priority.
“After Andrea’s death we began a full internal investigation and also sought the views of external experts. We have fully implemented all of the changes recommended by those investigations.”