Hoax call nurse's family 'can't cope'

KAREN KISSANE
Last updated 08:48 11/12/2012
hoax nurse family

FAMILY: Jacintha Saldanha's daughter Lisha, husband Ben Barboza and son Junal at the British Houses of Parliament.

Australian DJs 'gutted' by nurse's death

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The family of nurse Jacintha Saldanha was "devastated" by her death and should be getting the kind of counselling being offered to the two Australian DJs who tricked her, a prominent British MP has said.

Keith Vaz, who met the family at their Bristol home and also greeted them with a hug at Parliament on Monday, said: "They simply cannot cope or understand what is happening. This is a small, loving family. When I was there they were having prayers for her and they will continue to love her and to cherish her until they take her to India where they wish to bury her, after they have ... reclaimed the body."

Vaz said police had been helpful and the family had been visited by a liaison officer but: "I am not sure that they are getting the kind of support that, for example, the DJs in Australia appear to be getting...

"The hospital has made it very clear it has supported Jacintha, which is what we would expect a good employer to do. I think that at a time of grief it's important to give the family that support, and I would hope very much that trained psychologists and others will be helping this family because they are obviously grief-stricken."

But he avoided answering a question about whether the family had known if Saldanha was very distressed after learning that she had passed on a hoax phone call to the Duchess of Cambridge's ward at her hospital last week.

"They are a very close-knit family and they had previously contacted her every day. It's for them to tell everybody what has happened over those crucial two days."

He said the family was grateful that the hospital had set up a memorial fund in Saldanha's memory, and that the local Bangalorean community had "rallied round".

The hospital said it had spoken to Saldanha's partner by phone on the day of her death and offered to meet him whenever he wanted.

An autopsy is due to be conducted on Saldanha's body later today. Her death is currently described by police as unexplained but not suspicious and is suspected to have been suicide.

As the global blame game over her death continued, the King Edward VII Hospital said the radio station that broadcast the call, 2DayFM, had not contacted the hospital's senior management or its press office in advance.

The station has claimed it called five times trying to seek permission to run the call in public.

Rhys Holleran, chief executive officer of the station's owner, Austereo, said on Melbourne radio: "We rang them up to discuss what we had recorded [before it went to air - absolutely. We attempted to contact them on five occasions because we wanted to speak to them about it. It is absolutely true to say that we did attempt to contact those people."

He did not explain why the prank went to air despite the station's failure to receive permission for it and said the tragedy that followed had been completely unforeseeable.

A hospital spokesman said its management was "extremely surprised" at the station's claim it had called because it indicated the broadcaster was well aware of its responsibility to inform the hospital of what it had done, yet went on to broadcast regardless.

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British newspaper columnists have also questioned how it could have been legal to tape Saldanha secretly and then broadcast the exchange without her personal knowledge or permission.

Saldanha's brother, Naveen, told MailOnline that his devoutly Catholic sister was a "proper and righteous person" and would have been "devastated" by her unwitting role in the breach of medical confidentiality: "She would have felt much shame about the incident."

The two DJs, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, have apologised and said they were "gutted and heartbroken" by the tragedy.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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