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Probe launched into death of Highcliffe woman Jessica Rea who caught Covid-19 at Poole Hospital

AN investigation has been launched into the death of a former deputy head teacher from Highcliffe who caught a fatal dose of Covid-19 while being treated at Poole Hospital.

University Hospital Dorset (UHD), the NHS trust responsible for the facility, is probing the death of 80-year-old Jessica Rea this year which it said had been during a "challenging" time.

Mrs Rea did not have coronavirus when she was admitted to Poole on 8th January, as virus levels were rising nationally, after breaking a bone in her upper arm during a fall at home.

Jessica Rea pictured after retiring in 2002 as deputy headteacher at South Baddesley Primary School (46422653)
Jessica Rea pictured after retiring in 2002 as deputy headteacher at South Baddesley Primary School (46422653)

However, she tested positive 11 days later and the cause of death was given as coronavirus, chronic hyponatremia and diabetes. Now her concerned family want answers from UHD.

Daughter Emma Lidster told the A&T: "I want the trust to answer these questions: how and why did my mother catch Covid-19 at the hospital and why did she never come out alive?

"This should not have happened. She should have come out."

During her career Mrs Rea taught at New Milton Junior School before becoming deputy head at South Baddesley primary until she retired in 2002.

She had been married to her devoted husband Alan – a former head of languages at Highcliffe School – for more than 56 years. Emma said the pair had shielded throughout the pandemic and were responsible.

Emma explained after her mother was admitted to the hospital, medics decided to keep her under observation as her sodium levels were found to be low. Because of the pandemic, visitors were not allowed, so the pair had regular remote calls.

Emma said her mother was treated as part of a four-person "bay" designed to protect patients from catching Covid.

However, she had asked to have her rehabilitation at a community facility, so a transfer to a site in Weymouth was organised.

But before that happened one of the people in the bay tested positive for Covid and, although Mrs Rea was moved to another ward, a test discovered she had caught it too.

Emma explained she had no problem with her mother's care by consultants, but wanted to know what protocols the hospital had in place for treating non-Covid patients on wards, the testing regime for them, whether it was followed adequately, and how nurses had acted.

She also revealed she has been told over the weekend of January 23rd and 24th – when her mother passed away – that 13 other people also died at the hospital due to coronavirus.

"I do feel extremely aggrieved," Emma said, adding her mother's passing and the aftermath was "horrific" and "devastated" the whole family.

"Covid takes no prisoners and it is just so sad. Tragic is the only word for it.

"Mum was well known in the New Forest and loved. She gave a lot to people and to teaching, and had spent years working with special needs children.

"She loved what she did, was a strong and wonderful woman and an amazing mother. She inspired me to go into teaching and become an assistant head teacher and I owe so much to her. She made me what I am."

Asked to comment by the A&T, Dr Alyson O’Donnell, UHD chief medical officer, revealed the ongoing investigation.

She said: “Throughout the pandemic, we have adhered to the changing national and local guidance, as well as the advice of our senior clinical, nursing and infection prevention and control colleagues to keep our patients and staff safe.

"This was often challenging in a rapidly moving picture for Poole Hospital and the NHS as a whole.

“We appreciate that this continues to be a difficult time for Mrs Rea’s family, and offer them our deepest sympathies. Mrs Rea’s care at the hospital is the subject of a thorough and ongoing investigation, and we will share the findings with the family when this has concluded. We will also be contacting Mrs Lidster to discuss the status of the investigation and her concerns.

“While this investigation is underway it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”

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