Family Of Dead Man Who Were Wrongly Told He Was Alive Say 'Humans Make Mistakes'
The family of a man at the centre of a Victorian hospital stuff up, which saw him lay dead in a morgue for days as they searched for him, say they're much more upset about losing him than not being told quick enough.
The hospital has blamed a miscommunication for repeatedly telling the man’s family and police that he was alive and had been discharged when really his body was lying in a morgue.
Barwon Health has "unreservedly" apologised to the family caught up in the distressing administrative stuff up at University Hospital Geelong.
The man, named Jeff, had been admitted to the hospital on September 20, following a medical emergency, where he later died.
It was not until six days later and a frantic search that his sister Sue -- his next-of-kin and only remaining close relative -- was informed he was in the hospital morgue.
Sue told 10 News First that her family was shocked when they were finally alerted to Jeff's death.
"[I felt] sadness, tears, shock, because at that stage I thought he was just missing or he may be still in hospital somewhere. But shocked that he passed away so suddenly," she said.
Sue said she did feel some frustration following the miscommunication, but the sadness of losing her brother quickly took over.
"I don't know whether its a system error or a human error, and humans do make errors, we all do," she said.
Jeff's family said they hold no ill feelings towards those involved in the mistake.
"Even if it didn't happen, there's nothing we could have done to make it any better, because he passed pretty quickly," Sue's husband Daryl said.
Sue said everyone involved -- hospital staff, police and the coroner's office -- had been extremely helpful and supportive in the aftermath of Jeff's death.
Barwon Chief Executive Frances Diver confirmed on Thursday that the health service is investigating what occurred and takes full responsibility.
"It’s a terrible miscommunication. We are dreadfully sorry it occurred, and we want to make sure it doesn’t occur in the future," Diver said.
Barwon said Victoria Police were notified at the time of Jeff’s death, and his body was sent to the coroner's mortuary in Melbourne the following day.
“The staff in the Emergency Department made multiple attempts to contact the next of kin listed in the patient’s previous medical record,” the health service claimed.
"Once referred to the coroner, it is the role of the police and the coroner to work together to notify the family."
10 News First understands Jeff had suffered a heart attack at his regular Geelong café where he was a much-loved customer.
Waitress Tiettu Popping told 10 News First on Thursday that she watched him collapse to the ground.
"He wasn't breathing properly ... he was gasping," she said.
Popping claims her mother, who is a nurse, took care of Jeff as they tried to contact his sister.
Two days later, Popping said she went to visit Jeff in hospital, but claimed she was told he had been discharged.
Victoria Police confirmed they received a missing person's report on September 27.
10 News First understands police even charged into Jeff's apartment but were unable to locate him.
3AW's Neil Mitchell said he believed the hospital was called up to five times to confirm if Jeff had been discharged.
It wasn’t until at least five days later that police learnt Jeff had not been discharged because he was dead.
Popping described Jeff as "the nicest person in the world".
"People should not be treated like that. The hospital needs to work better on communication and how information is shared," she said.
On Thursday Victoria Police conceded they had " identified some shortcomings in the process of notifying the family of the death".
"We are currently conducting a comprehensive review of the circumstances surrounding the delay in notifying the family of his death."
The Victorian government is also looking into the matter.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said she is urgently seeking information from Barwon about the "very serious allegations".
"I'm very troubled by what has been alleged," she said.
Mikakos and Premier Daniel Andrews both offered their condolences to the family.
"If what we believe has happened has in fact occurred, that’s a terrible outcome, and I apologise unreservedly to the family and I indicate to them that there will be a full investigation," Andrews said.