Woman died soon after hospital discharged her

Discharged from hospital, Beth Cross was rushed back there by her husband, Daniel Cross.
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Discharged from hospital, Beth Cross was rushed back there by her husband, Daniel Cross.

The family of a woman who was discharged from hospital – but then died soon afterwards – is awaiting answers.

Diagnosed with what is commonly known as acid reflux, Beth Cross was discharged from Palmerston North Hospital, but her chest pain continued. Her husband rushed her back to hospital, but he found his wife of 32 years was sitting lifeless, just metres from the doors of the emergency department.

Beth Cross' death is now the subject of an inquest in Palmerston North, where Coroner Chris D​evonport is assessing whether there were failings in her care.

Daniel Cross, from Foxton, described the pain his wife had endured in the 12 hours before her death.

The coroner, members of the Cross family and some MidCentral District Health Board staff, heard Beth Cross, 71, had woken with severe chest pain in the early hours of September 15, 2015.

She was taken to hospital by ambulance, treated and discharged.

Yet 12 hours after first experiencing chest pain, she was dead.

Devonport said Beth Cross died a natural death. Results showed part of her aorta had dissected.

Aortic dissection happens when there is a tear in the wall of the major artery carrying blood out of the heart.

Senior Constable Peter Benton said Beth Cross had woken in  pain about 1am that  day in September.

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She was treated by paramedics,  but they were unable to find the cause of her pain.

She was then taken to hospital, where she presented with chest pain.

The inquest heard she was short of breath, sweaty and nauseous.

Tests including an X-ray were completed.

She remained under observation and after her pain levels subsided, she was later discharged and picked up by her husband at 10am that day.

Not long after the couple returned to Foxton, the chest pain was back and this time her husband returned her to the emergency department.

She was unwell and was shaking in the car, and when Daniel Cross opened his wife's passenger door to help her, she appeared to be dead.

The 71-year-old was unable to be resuscitated and was pronounced dead after 1.30pm.

Her daughter Anne Tankard argues something went wrong in her mother's care.

She said she was concerned her mother's dissecting aorta had not been picked up during her testing and X-ray.

The hospital electronic records indicated Mundell did not view her chest X-ray prior to discharging her.

Tankard also questioned why further testing was not done, including why both arms had not had their blood pressure taken and why a CT scan was not taken.

Dr Catherine Jackson gave evidence. Jackson had looked at the scans after Beth Cross  was discharged. Her heart had appeared smooth, of normal size, and it was not obvious from the scan that her heart was potentially dissecting, she said.

Jackson suggested it was possible Beth Cross' aorta had not dissected at the time of the X-ray, or that it was in its early stages of doing so, which the scan did not pick up.

Mundell  told the inquest he had followed the correct processes.

Mundell said there were 200 patients presented to the emergency department with undifferentiated chest pain in January 2017 alone and it was not common practice for all patients to have CT scans.

He said the indicators pointed to a bad case of indigestion.

Mundell and other witnesses will continue to give evidence on Tuesday.

* Clarification: An earlier version of this article incorrectly inferred that Anne Tankard raised criticisms about Dr David Mundell not remembering to check her late mother's  X-rays. As the article now states, she raised concerns about hospital electronic records indicating Mundell did not view her chest X-ray prior to discharging her.

 - Stuff

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