Rugby care home worker appears in court accused of wilful neglect of 87-year-old

An elderly Rugby care home resident ‘looked like death’ when other staff members took over her care after a nurse accused of neglecting her had finished her shift.

Tuesday, 26th November 2019, 10:58 am
Updated Tuesday, 26th November 2019, 10:59 am
Catalina Ferchiu.

So they called for an ambulance to take 87-year-old stroke victim Rachel Smith to hospital, where she died three weeks later, a jury at Warwick Crown Court has heard.

Mrs Smith had been a resident at the Overslade House Care Home in Overslade Road, Rugby, where nurse Catalina Ferchiu had been responsible for her care overnight.

But Ferchiu (54) of St Marks Court, Pool Close, Rugby, has pleaded not guilty to the wilful neglect of another by a care worker – which it was stressed was not linked to her death.

After the jury of ten women and two men had been sworn, Judge Peter Cooke told them: “We are going to be dealing with the last part of the life of an elderly lady.

“She was somebody who had suffered a stroke, she was paralysed down one side of her body, and she had little or no communication. She was in a very sad state of health.

“Her health went into very steep decline, and ultimately she died. But what is required from you is a clear-headed and dispassionate view of the evidence.”

Prosecutor Peter Grieves-Smith said Mrs Smith had been a resident at the Overslade House Care Home, where Ferchiu had worked for 13 years, since suffering a stroke in October 2016.

Although she was paralysed down the right side of her body and had limited ability to communicate, she still retained ‘full mental ability.’

On the night of February 1 Ferchiu, an experienced nurse who was registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, was the senior nurse on duty.

She was ‘responsible for looking after Rachel Smith and other residents’ in what was known as the ‘new unit’ at the home.

“There were others on duty, but they were not as qualified, and Rachel Smith depended on this defendant to do her job competently and diligently. She knew all about her frailties and the treatment she required,” said Mr Grieves-Smith.

“At about 7.30 in the morning on the 2nd of February Catalina Ferchiu finished her shift and told those who took over that Rachel Smith had been sick during the night and had a bruise.

“They went to her room and found her in a very poor condition. There was a large bruise to her shoulder, and her face was grey. ‘She looked like death, lifeless,’ was the view of one of the nurses.”

An ambulance was called, and Mrs Smith was taken to hospital where she died on February 23, said Mr Grieves-Smith, who told the jury there was no evidence of how the bruise was caused.

Ferchiu, who had the help of a Romanian interpreter in court, told the police that she visited Mrs Smith’s room at 4am and saw she had vomited, so cleaned her up and saw the bruise – which she said was not as big as it was by 7.30.

She said she was concerned about Mrs Smith’s health, and that the vomiting was ‘a worry’ because of the fear that her airway might be obstructed, and said the bruise also troubled her.

“But rather than seek advice, she did nothing,” Mr Grieves-Smith told the jury.

“She claimed she checked on Rachel Smith after four o’clock, but on her account that amounted to nothing more than standing close to the door of room six and looking across at the bed where Rachel Smith was asleep.

“We are going to have to consider whether she did in fact go back and check - because if she had done, how could she have missed the very sharp decline in Rachel Smith’s health?

“The prosecution say she neglected to do that which should have been done in the care of the patient, and that that neglect was wilful when she decided not to do anything or recklessly neglected her duty to care for Rachel Smith.

“When she first saw that bruise, as a minimum she should have sought advice, she should have done something.

“And her wilful neglect continued after that. If she was standing by the door looking across, that is an obviously inadequate basis on which to act.

"Why not walk a few steps to the side of the bed? If she had done that, she would have seen the very sharp decline that everyone saw at half past seven.”

Mr Grieves-Smith added: “The prosecution do not doubt the obvious difficulties in nursing and caring for the elderly.

“This case is not about imposing unrealistic standards of perfection on nurses, it’s about wilful neglect.”

But he stressed: “We do not say that neglect caused death, or there would have been a much more serious charge on the indictment.” The trial continues.