Press Ahead With COVID-19 Public Inquiry, Coroner Urges PM

Helen William

March 30, 2021

Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong/PA Media

A coroner has called on the Prime Minister to "press ahead" with a public inquiry into the pandemic after an inquest into the death of a nurse.

A 28-year-old nurse who died with coronavirus less than a week after giving birth died of multiple organ failure and COVID-19, a coroner has ruled.

Delivering a narrative conclusion at the inquest into the death of sister Mary Agyapong, who died at the Luton and Dunstable Hospital, Coroner Emma Whitting said: “The deceased died after contracting COVID-19 but it remains unclear where and when her exposure to the virus had occurred.”

Ms Agyapong died on April 12 last year at the hospital where she worked, 5 days after giving birth to her second child.

She spent at least the last week of her life with coronavirus, a diagnosis initially dismissed by medics at the hospital where she worked, despite collapsing at home and suffering acute breathing difficulties.

Her widower Ernest Boateng had told the inquest at Bedfordshire and Luton Coroner’s Court that she was concerned about becoming infected at work while heavily pregnant. Ms Agyapong, who lived in Luton and was originally from Ghana, died as the COVID-19 case rate rose across the UK.

After the ruling, Mr Boateng said: “The sudden death of my wife and the mother of our two children has been the hardest pain to bear. In those early days after Mary’s death, I was only able to carry on because of the need to care for our children and provide them with a loving home.

“Mary was strong, capable, vibrant, full of life and the most precious person in my life. It is still difficult to believe that she lost her life to the COVID-19 virus.

“I am glad that those who were involved in Mary’s care in the final weeks of her life have had to give a full account of what happened.

“I hope that the fact that they have had to do so will remind them of the need to always give the best possible care to women in Mary’s situation – especially black women who are themselves on the front line of healthcare.”

Public Inquiry

The coroner called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to press ahead with a public inquiry into the pandemic “as soon as practicable” as she expressed her own condolences to Ms Agyapong’s family.

She said: “I would like to express my own condolences to Mary’s family.

“Whilst Mary’s untimely death is first and foremost a tragedy for you her husband, for her children, and all her relations colleagues and friends, it is for society too.

“As a society, it is important that we learn from all of the lives that have been lost as a result of this terrible pandemic and to consider the wider policy implications that may be lost from each and every one of these.

“Since this is a process which goes far beyond a coroner’s inquest and the Prime Minister has indicated his intention to hold a full public inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic, I urge him to proceed with this as soon as practicable.”

After the hearing Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust chief executive David Carter described Ms Agyapong as "a highly valued and loved member of our team and a fantastic nurse".

He said: "We are reassured that the coroner has found no areas of concern regarding our support for, or care of Mary, and I would like to pay tribute to our staff who did everything they could for Mary in hugely challenging circumstances."

Timeline

March 12, 2020

Mary Agyapong, heavily pregnant is on a day off. She is due to return to work the next day but phones in sick, ahead of her shift, complaining of back problems.

March 13

Ms Agyapong is signed off work, initially for a week, and then until March 29.

March 18

A decision is made to convert half of ward 12, where Ms Agyapong was a band 6 nurse, into somewhere treating coronavirus patients. It does not admit its first COVID-19 patient until some time later.

March 29

Ms Agyapong begins 4 weeks’ annual leave ahead of her maternity leave, which is due to begin on April 27. Her due date is May 7.

April 5

Ms Agyapong collapses at home in Luton, suffering with fatigue and breathlessness.

She is admitted to the emergency department at the hospital where she works. Doctors believe she has coronavirus but she is not admitted into hospital for care because she does not need oxygen.

Less than 3 hours later, she is discharged – something Ms Agyapong is said to be “unhappy” with. Her husband, Ernest Boateng, later says he “cannot believe” she is allowed to return home as she looks “absolutely appalling”.

April 7

Ms Agyapong’s condition worsens. She is taken to hospital in the early hours at nearly 36 weeks pregnant.

Her daughter is delivered by Caesarean section shortly before midnight. The baby is transferred to the neonatal unit due to being premature.

Ms Agyapong is reportedly not allowed to hold her baby due to testing positive for COVID-19 earlier that evening.

April 8

Ms Agyapong is taken to intensive care as her condition worsens.

April 12

Ms Agyapong dies in the hospital where she works, 5 days after giving birth to her second child. Mr Boateng does not have enough time to get to the hospital to say goodbye to his wife before she dies.

This article contains information from PA Media.

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