A Zimbabwean woman, Beatrice Lovane was told by paramedics to ‘behave’, ‘stop humiliating’ herself, and was refused a wheelchair as she lay dying in a stairwell paramedics as she lay dying – and ordered to walk to the ambulance – an inquest heard.
Ambulance staff failed to act for a ‘prolonged period of time’ after Beatrice Lovane collapsed at the bottom of her stairs, despite her mother begging them to help.
Miss Lovane, who had an undiagnosed liver condition, fell ill after taking co-codamol tablets prescribed for stomach pain.
As she lay on the floor in vomit, her eyes rolling back and struggling to breathe, she was told by paramedics to ‘behave’, ‘stop humiliating’ herself, and was refused a wheelchair.
The 22-year-old, from Rochdale died in hospital a few hours later.
Post mortem tests showed the tablets Miss Lovane took caused her to suffer organ failure as she had a fatty liver.
Paramedics’ inaction in August last year was only exposed when police body cam footage surfaced during her inquest.
Heywood coroner Lisa Hashmi said there had been a ‘gross failure to provide the most basic of care’ in a case that ‘beggared belief’, adding that paramedics’ attempts to resuscitate Miss Lovane were ‘perfunctory’.
And she slammed ambulance staff for not being ‘upfront and honest’ until the footage surfaced.
The inquest heard how Miss Lovane called an ambulance at 9.40pm on August 26 last year after taking co-codamol tablets while suffering stomach pain.
Her mother Maria Lovane, 55, said that when she came home at around 11pm the paramedics were already there and her daughter was breathing very fast, with dilated pupils.
The crew took her blood pressure, but refused to give her oxygen, saying it would not be safe, and told her to walk to the ambulance.
“When her eyes were rolling one paramedic said to her: ‘Stop being funny and behave yourself’,” she said.
“They told me she was faking it and doing it for attention. They were trying to pull her down the stairs and she went onto her knees and collapsed at the front entrance.
“She collapsed again and they said to her: ‘What are you doing, stop humiliating yourself and walk to the ambulance.’”
She said that when a police officer arrived shortly after and pulled her to one side, her daughter ‘took her last breath’.
When Miss Lovane stopped breathing, her mother said the crew ‘started rushing’, got a stretcher and put a tube over her mouth.
Miss Lovane was taken to Fairfield hospital, a process her mother said in the end had taken ‘almost three hours’ – where she later died.
Sgt Phillip Canavan said he was called by a paramedic, who said he’d had difficulty doing observations because Miss Lovane was ‘up and down’.
By the time he got there paramedics had already been there ‘some time’, he said.
Sgt Canavan, who turned on his body cam on arrival and captured some of the incident, added: “When I arrived I was certain there was a comment along the lines of: ‘We are not sure if she is putting this on.’”
Giving evidence, both paramedics said they wished they’d handled the situation differently.
But Anthony Morris, who was first on the scene, said Miss Lovane was not initially ‘observably unwell’.
He said she was not co-operating, refused to go to hospital and slipped from her chair to the floor in what appeared to be a ‘controlled action’.
She then went to the bathroom and locked herself in, he said, before coming out and falling to the floor in what he also described as a ‘controlled action’.
Mr Morris also said Miss Lovane appeared to behave differently in front of members of her family.
It was only when they reached the bottom of the stairs, he said, that Miss Lovane ‘suddenly collapsed’.
“This was different to the other time,” he said.
“When she was walking downstairs she was assisted by mum and the plan was that while she was mobile she would continue walking and we could get her to the ambulance.
“I was shocked as to what had happened. I would have done this so differently now and I am so sorry.
“I believed at that time that her actions were behavioural because of the way she had just taken off and ran into the bathroom with no explanation.”
Trainee paramedic Lisa Chadwick said: “I just wish I had done something differently or more quickly. It was a new role and I would have liked more training support than I received.”
Both paramedics, alongside a third member of the crew, were suspended by North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) when footage of the incident emerged shortly before the inquest.
Recording a narrative verdict coroner Lisa Hashmi said it ‘beggared belief’ that after Miss Lovane collapsed, she was left in a ‘dirty stairwell, that was dirty with vomit and other bodily fluids, for a prolonged period of time’.
“There was a gross failure to provide the most basic care to Beatrice Lovane,” she said.
“I find it extremely disappointing that it required video footage for the ambulance service to admit these failings.
“It is deeply worrying that the paramedics were not as forthcoming as they need have been until seeing that footage.
“I am deeply disappointed by professionals who do not appear to have been completely open from the outset.
“But that is not a matter for this court. That will be a matter for their employer and regulatory body, but I am assured that steps are being taken in relation to their actions.”
She said the crew were ‘dismissive’ and were unable to explain why they had decided Miss Lovane was hyperventilating rather than seriously-ill.
“Families shouldn’t have to beg for care and investigation. Whilst the paramedics have been very honest I am very disconcerted by the fact that it took officers body cam footage to establish the truth around this matter.
“But for this footage this family would have been left in a very precarious position. I am deeply disappointed by professionals who did not appear to have been upfront and honest and it leaves me with great concern about the statements of truth they put their name to.
“I have to make clear that this is not reflective of the overall care provided by this trust and public services across the country are under significant pressure and on the whole the ambulance service provides good and sensitive care to the public that it serves.
“It is not going to bring Beatrice back but let this be a lesson to others and don’t let this happen to any other families.”
A spokeswoman for NWAS said: “The trust would like to express its sincere condolences to Miss Lovane’s family for their very sad loss. We appreciate this must be a difficult time for them.
“We did receive a complaint from the family in March 2017, and a full and thorough investigation was undertaken. We fully accept that the level of care Miss Lovane received was below the standard we would expect and did not uphold the trust’s values.
“New evidence was recently been disclosed and as a result of this, the staff involved have been suspended from duty pending further investigation.
“We would like to reassure the public that we have taken this matter extremely seriously and will co-operate fully with the regulators and authorities. We expect all our staff to uphold our values in terms of respect, dignity and compassion and anyone who doesn’t risks losing their position within the North West Ambulance Service.” – Manchester Evening News/ BBC