Former nurse who neglected elderly woman given suspended prison sentence - The Rugby Observer

Former nurse who neglected elderly woman given suspended prison sentence

Rugby Editorial 2nd Nov, 2020 Updated: 3rd Nov, 2020   0

A CARE home nurse who callously ignored the plight of a frail elderly resident who died three weeks later has come ‘as close as close can be’ to being jailed.

But in the end Catalina Ferchiu’s previous 35 years of blameless work narrowly saved her from prison after she had been found guilty at Warwick Crown Court of wilful neglect.

Ferchiu, 55, of St Marks Court, Pool Close, Rugby, was sentenced to 20 months in jail suspended for 18 months and was ordered to do 240 hours of unpaid work and to take part in a rehabilitation activity.

During her trial prosecutor Peter Grieves-Smith said 87-year-old Rachel Smith had been a resident at the Overslade House Care Home in Rugby since suffering a stroke in 2016.

Paralysed to one side of her body and with limited ability to communicate, she still retained ‘full mental ability.’

On February 1 2018, Ferchiu, an experienced nurse who had worked at the home for 13 years, was the senior nurse on duty.

Mr Grieves-Smith said: “At about 7.30 in the morning on February 2, 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.

He said Ferchiu should have got help for Mrs Smith when she had checked on her at 4am and found she had vomited and saw the bruise, and should have monitored her more closely after that.

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

Rachael Smith.

Ferchiu, who told the jury she had been a nurse for 35 years, said Mrs Smith had been prone to bruising, and claimed ‘there was nothing to worry me about her condition.’

Adjourning the case following the jury’s verdict, Judge Peter Cooke had told her: “You displayed, for a period of several hours, a cavalier disregard of your professional obligations towards a very sick lady.”

At the resumed hearing a statement was read from one of Mrs Smith’s sons, Nigel White, who said: “The last two years have caused significant upset and distress to me and my family.

“I have to stop myself feeling I should have done more. I worry that my mother spent her last hours in pain and distress. She was left alone and only got help at 8am.

“We cannot excuse her wilful neglect of our mother and fear what she may have done to her that night. We will never have those answers.”

Colin McCarragher, defending, said there were a number of references and testimonials about the care Ferchiu had provided during her career, and a pre-sentence report on her.

And he submitted that her previous exemplary work over 35 years as a nurse, having qualified both in her native Romania and in this country, meant it was not necessary to jail her.

Judge Cooke told Ferchiu: “One can only assume as Rachel Smith was descending deeper and deeper into illness, that she was aware nobody was coming to help her, but she could not communicate her distress.

“It is an awful thing to contemplate, and it must have been a terrifying ordeal for this very poorly lady.

“After several hours of neglect you went off duty as soon as you had conducted a hand-over which conveyed no information of any value to the day shift, and which did nothing to prepare them for the condition in which they found Rachel.”

The judge said he remembered the evidence of the ‘much younger and less experienced’ nurse who took over for the day shift and who ‘took one look at Rachel Smith and called 999.’

“Rachel nearly died on the way to hospital, and while you cannot be held responsible for her death, otherwise you would have faced another and graver charge, the truth is she never recovered from the collapse in her health that happened while she was in your care.

“Nobody could have predicted you would ever end up before a crown court presenting a judge with the dilemma such as the one I face, because at the age of 55 and truly to be described as a person of hitherto good character, you have now lost the only career you have ever known after 35 years of public service.

“Another vital feature is that the way you committed this offence makes it an offence of pure neglect. It was an act of omission, a failure to act. It was not a matter of you actively committing an assault or some other act of cruelty.

“I accept that for you to behave as you did was plainly wholly out of character.

“You were not a neglectful nurse, quite the contrary. It is clear there have been countless vulnerable patients for whom you have cared impeccably over a long career.

“It is a shame that humanity has not been on display throughout these proceedings, nor indeed very much in what I have read in the pre-sentence report. I struggle to identify in what you told the probation officer any acknowledgement of wrong-doing.

“You have come as close as close can be to me having to declare that appropriate punishment can only be achieved by immediate custody.”

After the hearing, Police Staff Investigator Marcella Forrest said: “Ferchiu displayed an abject failure to provide basic care for Mrs Smith.

“Nobody deserves to be treated this way, especially someone as vulnerable as Mrs Smith.”

In a statement, Mrs Smith’s family said: “As a family we are pleased with the outcome of the trial and verdict.

“After an emotional two-and-a-half years following the passing of our dear mother Rachael Smith (nee White), we are relieved to have finally received justice.

“We would like this verdict to send a clear message to the care industry that wilful neglect against the elderly and vulnerable within our society cannot and should not be tolerated.

“During the night of February 2, 2018, it is our view that our mother sadly would have suffered a considerable amount of pain – she was a defenceless elderly lady who unfortunately didn’t have the ability to talk and ask for help.

“Our mother was left to deteriorate for several hours with a clear injury, by the senior nurse unit manager who should have been caring for her that night and failed her and her profession with her neglect and ill treatment.

“We would like to pass on our immense gratitude to everyone involved in caring for our mother following events at the care home. Our thanks to the Ambulance services, the staff at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire, St Cross Hospital, Rugby Adult Safeguarding Team and the Care and Quality Commission (CQC).

“We thank Warwickshire Police and our counsel for their professional investigation and prosecution. As a family we can’t thank them enough for their hard work in the conviction of Ms Catalina Ferchiu and obtaining the verdict our mother so rightly deserved.

“Our mother’s unexpected death will now be subject to a Coroner’s Inquest.”


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