Heather Bills inquest: Nurse confused that colleague was unmoved by beeping

Heather Bills died in 2013 while a patient at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital.

Heather Bills died in 2013 while a patient at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital.

Healthcare workers who looked after burns victim Heather Bills have given conflicting accounts of what happened the night she suffered a fatal brain injury. 

Bills died in 2013 while in the care of Middlemore Hospital in south Auckland, having survived a huge fire at her Orakei home six weeks earlier.

The 64-year-old was rescued from the explosive blaze and admitted to hospital with serious burns.

Michele Maher, Heather Bills' daughter, told the inquest her mother had discussed assisted suicide with her.

Michele Maher, Heather Bills' daughter, told the inquest her mother had discussed assisted suicide with her.

However, she died six weeks later on December 26, having suffered an irreversible brain injury after being given a large dose of insulin.

Heather Bills 'frustrated' at surviving house fire, inquest told
Injured woman offered to pay hospital staff to end her life, inquest told

She died with her daughter at her side, and an inquest at Auckland District Court has heard conflicting accounts of what took place in the lead-up to her death.

Healthcare worker Sharon Connors told the court that her shift on the night that Bills died was dull and boring. 

"Time stood still and I was glad the shift was only four hours," she said.

She claimed she remembered hearing the machines in Bills' room beeping but said they weren't an issue. 

Bills' daughter Michelle Maher questioned Connors by reading part of the statement of nurse Harmeet Sokhi, who also cared for the burns victim. 

Ad Feedback

In her earlier statement, Sokhi described the noise of the machines in Bills' room as being loud enough to be heard from the corridor outside of her room. 

"When I got to Heather's room I found that Sharon, the watch, seemed oblivious to the fact that three of the machines were beeping," she said.

Sokhi said she was perplexed that Connors seemed to be unmoved by the loud beeping of the pumps. 

Nirmala Salim was handed over care of Bills when Connors' shift ended.

Connors said Bills was sleepy but well and did not mention the monitors going off earlier in the shift, Salim said.

But Salim soon noticed Bills' heart rate was racing and that she was in pain.

"I could tell she was different and I was concerned something was wrong," Salim said.

Salim was capable of taking a blood sugar test and providing information to doctors, but was not told by the resource nurse to monitor Bills' blood sugar levels.

Salim was aware Bills had suicidal thoughts but said she did not know anything of her personality.

"I did not [know] anything related to her death," Salim said.


The court had already heard how a nurse told doctors that Bills' blood sugar levels were within normal limits.

Dr Lit Son Yoong and Dr Amanjeet Toor gave evidence earlier on Monday:

Yoong was the registrar on duty when Bills' condition deteriorated. He told the inquest he believed he had asked for her blood sugar levels. 

"They told me her blood pressure and blood sugars were fine. I recall that her blood sugar was five or six, one of those two numbers. Anything above four and under 11 is fine." 

That information led the doctors to rule out the possibility Bills was having a hypoglycemic, or low blood sugar, episode, he said.

Bills' blood pressure was unremarkable, he said. 

Dr Amanjeet Toor told the inquest Bills sounded rattly, and the nurse noted she looked more puffy and was sweating heavily. 

His initial impression was Bills was suffering from an acute pulmonary oedema, or fluid in the lungs.

"I asked what her blood sugar levels were and [was] told they were normal. I didn't consider her to be hypoglycemic and to question the nurse."

Bills was described by medical staff as depressed, non-engaged, and uncommunicative.

In her evidence clinical resource nurse Fiona Morse said she had heard Bills had banned all visitors, including her own daughter. 

During a conversation after Bills' death, Morse was told by a colleague she'd seen a blood sugar kit in Bills' room.

"She said she'd wondered why it was there because Heather wasn't a diabetic." 

Bills' daughter broke down when questioning Morse about her mother's suicidal thoughts.

She mentioned a conversation she'd had where her mother talked about assisted suicide in Fiji.

"I told mum I'd help her with anything but I wouldn't help her with that." 

Charge nurse manager Vina Singh told the court Bills had constantly asked staff if she could die and if she'd done enough to die.

​Earlier in the inquest, nurse Tania Sachill told the court Bills had been quite distressed. 

"She was frustrated about being alive. She was shocked at herself that she had stuffed it up. She would make comments like, 'how could I be so stupid?' and then whack the bed with her hands. 

"She was saying how she was useless and had never done anything right. She said we should let her go and she was just a burden," Scahill said.

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers

$1.6m church cash gambled away

Elizabeth Papu was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison at Manukau District Court. (FILE)

She was in charge of the church's money but she used it to fund her hidden habit.

Schoolgirl still critical after crash

A car is pulled from the crash scene after it ploughed into a group of students outside Westlake Girls' High School.

Young student fighting for her life as a "deeply saddened" Auckland school grapples with horror crash.

Election mail clogging letterboxes

Briar Wyatt says she's trying to lead a zero waste lifestyle and receiving election mail has been "frustrating".

Political parties have been ignoring people's "no junk mail" signs, and turns out they're allowed to.

Killer's parting shot to victim's family

Bodi McKee faces at least three years behind bars for shooting dead Leslie Putt in Auckland last year.

Bodie McKee shot dead Leslie Putt last year and yelled profane abuse as he was taken away to prison.


Eli gains loyal, helpful friend video

Six-year-old Eli Burkhalter with  his new assistance dog Taffy.

Taffy the golden labrador is a welcome companion for six-year-old Waikanae boy.

Kids sick on synthetics

Synthetic drugs, often mixed with dried leaves resembling cannabis, have claimed at least 20 lives in New Zealand this ...

Youngest was just 5 as three Porirua kids taken to hospital severely ill.

Massive drug case heads to trial

Wellington Police found cash hidden in a wall cavity during raids in Porirua and Tawa on April 11, 2017. (File photo)

Lawyer says covert drug operation was believed to be the biggest yet for the Wellington region.

SH1 blockage cleared

NZTA advised of delays on around the Paremata roundabout and Mana on State Highway 1 after a three-car crash at Plimmerton.

Minor delays continue after a two-car crash near Plimmerton.


Mum 'cannot grieve' video

Michelle Bishop is upset at the service received by funeral home Poppy Funerals following the death of her daughter ...

Michelle Bishop feels let down by funeral director who gave her Thin Lizzy for body and booked funeral at buffet restaurant.

House fire in Rangiora video

The Prest family look on as their house is devastated by fire.

"Where do we live, where do we go?" asks Canterbury family who lost everything in the blaze.

'Bound together by cancer' video

Christchurch father of two Kevin "Chalky" Carr received the news that his pancreatic cancer was back and his prognosis ...

Chalky Carr could have focused on his own cancer fight. Instead, he's raising $100,000 for a girl he'd never met.

Missing Chch men found

Dean Woolley, left, and Kane Hazelton were missing for a week. They were found in Ashburton on Wednesday September 20.

Dean Woolley and Kane Hazelton were found in Ashburton a week after they disappeared.


Moorby's Top 5 this weekend

The Waikato Cherry Tree Festival will be held on September 23 and 24.

It's election weekend but there's an array of other events on if politics isn't your thing.

Library fix approved

Councillors approved $635,000 to earthquake strengthen the Hamilton Central Library. Another $87,000 will be used to add ...

Hamilton's central library will be brought up to earthquake standards.

Fatal police shooting 'justified'

Michael Taylor was shot dead by police officers at a property off Waverly St near Paeroa on June 10, 2016.

Officer used fatal force because he believed machete-wielding man was about to kill.

$1b water park plans revealed

The site could be home to an adventure park where visitors can try wakeboarding or scramble over an inflatable aquatic ...

Plans for a water adventure park, including housing and tourist accommodation, have been revealed.


The 'hero' in the beauty aisle

Shane White's training kicked into action as soon as he got to the man who collapsed in the beauty aisle.

Ian Foreman collapsed in a New Plymouth supermarket only for the produce manager to save his life.

Tight result predicted 

New Plymouth candiates
Clockwise from top left: Murray Chong (NZ First), Jonathan Young (National), Corie Haddock ...

Six New Plymouth electorate candidates still have more to do before they can relax

Death of monkey at Brooklands Zoo

150816 News Grant Matthew/Fairfax NZ 

Cotton-top tamarin monkeys at the Brooklands Zoo in New Plymouth.

Nephrite leaves behind her 5-year-old daughter Inca, and Inca's dad.

Ngā Manu Kōrero begins

Dr Ruakere Hond addressed the manuhiri (visitors).

Students from 52 schools across Aotearoa have arrived in New Plymouth for a speech competition.


Another feather in artist's cap

13092017 Photo: MURRAY WILSON/STUFF		
Artist Joe Mcmenamin has worked with Lytton St School kids making a large, ...

Artist brightening up Manawatū streets with mural artwork.

Crash near Foxton

Ambulance leaving scene of a fatal crash on state highway 1 near Foxton.

One person is dead after two cars collided on State Highway 1 near Foxton.

The perils of Government

From left, National candidate Adrienne Pierce, Money Free Party candidate Scott Andrew and Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway ...

OPINION: National's candidate was ganged up on and faced tough questions.

Two service stations held up

The BP service station on Main St, Palmerston North, was robbed by two armed men on Wednesday

Armed men entered a BP in Palmerston North and a Mobil in Levin.


Straight to the pointe

Gillian Francis takes a class of students at the Nelson Dance Academy.

Forty years of running one of Nelson's best known dance school has seen Gillian Francis teach thousands of boys and girls how to dance and perform.

School's Link fears


Sonya Hockley, Auckland Point School principal outside the Haven Rd ...

Auckland Point School principal worried the Southern Link will stop local kids attending.

'What's a candidate?' video

Birchwood School students from left Jacob 8, Talei 9, Mia 8, talk to Stuff about their thoughts on the election and politics.

They can't legally vote until 2029, but they still have strong views on the election.

Who are you voting for?

Who are you voting for?

How are you voting on Saturday? Have your say in our election poll.


Recycling in the bag

Pak 'n Save owner Mark Elkington with their new soft plastics recycling bin.

Millions of plastic bags destined for landfill can now be recycled.

The generation game

The chutney-taste test is a serious business for members of the Women's Institute.

The cavalry is coming for one of New Zealand's oldest institutions - and they've brought chutney.

'Taylor-made' for trees

The first planting event in 2014 saw  Marlborough Landscape Group members, from left, Helen Ballinger, Ralph Ballinger ...

 It began as an idea to enhance the river and has branched out into something much bigger.

When one door closes ...

Business owners Holly Bonnington, right, and Kay Nicholls (centre) at the Sneaky Beach Cafe in Havelock.

The Sneaky Beach Cafe opened this week in Havelock, much to the excitement of locals.

South Canterbury

Men's health focus of campaign

Jonty Penney from Timaru is participating in the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride to raise funds for men,s health.

Two Timaru men are taking the health message on the road.

Flow-on concerns

David Hurst, from A J Engineering in Washdyke, is concerned about the impact of the water levy.

Businesses concerned about impact of Labour's water levy, spokesman says concerns unjustified.

New Mackenzie CEO

New Mackenzie council chief executive Suzette van

A current staff member will take on the top job at the Mackenzie District Council.

'He's a hero,' neighbour says

The remains of the Waipopo property on Wednesday afternoon.

Waipopo man who rescued wife from fire would have used 'every bit of strength'.


Search for missing man

Missing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe.

More than 30 ground searchers, three search dogs and an aerial search have failed to find any further sign of missing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe

Serial sea lion killer at large video

A sea lion found shot on a Catlins beach in Southland in April.

A serial killer may be targeting New Zealand sea lions, with a $5000 reward on offer in exchange for the culprit.

Fired while on sick leave

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has ordered Oamaru-based P&W Painters (PWP) to compensate former employee Paul ...

Company that unfairly fired brush hand while on sick leave also had to compensate an ex-staffer who was called a "baby killer".

Kidnapping duo plead guilty

Nick Miles, 24, and Gary Michael Wilson, 46, have admitted kidnapping a man and dumping him on the outskirts of Dunedin.

Two men kidnapped and dumped another man on the outskirts on Dunedin.


Pound in clear

An animal group and the Invercargill City Council are at odds about how a dog was treated. (File photo)

Ministry for Primary Industries clears the Invercargill City Council over captive bolt use.

Crash on Tay St

Several police cars blocking the the Tay St-Queens Dr intersection after an accident involving a motor cycle in Invercargill.

Police have arrested a motorcyclist who failed to stop for Police and crashed into a car in Invercargill this morning.

Turei fronts to city students

Metiria Turei speaks to Aurora College students in Invercargill.

Even on the brink of a knife-edge election, Metiria Turei doesn't regret telling her benefit story.

Youth organisations make appeal

Sam Balloch was one of dozens of volunteers seeking signatures for a petition to keep Number 10 One Stop Shop and ...

Number 10 Youth One Stop Shop and the Invercargill Secondary Schools Network are gathering support for their petition to remain at their current location.

Ad Feedback