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Hospital warned about Eunice Richardson's allergy before fatal mishap

The nurses union raised concerns about a busy Princess Margaret Hospital ward 18 months before an 80-year-old woman died from a hospital mishap.

Eunice Richardson died in November 2013 after she suffered a severe allergic reaction from being given bacteristatic antibiotic, Trimethoprim, while in care at Princess Margaret Hospital in Christchurch.

She was already known to have an allergy to the drug and wore a MedicAlert bracelet. Every page of her health file had a large orange sticker with a warning about the allergy.

A May 2014 district health board report on her death found the ward she was admitted to had a higher workload than in others at Princess Margaret Hospital.

The report also said that a prescribing environment with lots of interruptions contributed to a risk of errors.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation Christchurch organiser John Miller said the union raised concerns in a review of the ward around 18 months before her death.

Those concerns included the management of the ward and the patient flow.

“We represent 46,000 plus members, we need to be listened to,” he said.

Miller said it was time the heath board focused on appropriate funding and staffing for its hospitals.

The health board’s report into Eunice Richardson’s death recommended a formal review of the ward’s management. It recommended measures be put in place to address the working conditions within six months of the report.

A Christchurch District Health Board spokeswoman said the DHB was unable to comment on whether or not the recommendations had been implemented while Eunice Richardson’s case was before the Health and Disability Commissioner and coroner.

CDHB chief executive David Meates said earlier the organisation was sorry for the tragic events that led to Eunice Richardson’s death.

Eunice Richardson was admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital while recovering from hip surgery. The Trimethoprim, administered for a urinary tract infection, caused blisters “the size of a hand” on her buttocks and torso and she lost 50 per cent of her skin, her husband, Laurie Richardson, said.

She was transferred to Christchurch Hospital’s burns unit, where she later died.

By Ryan Thomas for The Press