Toowoomba Hospital.
Toowoomba Hospital. Kevin Farmer

Inquest to probe woman's death after hospital stay

THE care an elderly Oakey woman received at the Toowoomba Hospital nearly two years ago will be subject to a coronial inquest this month.

Gwendoline Helen Mead was 73 when she died on March 1, 2015, just four days after being discharged from the Intensive Care Unit at Toowoomba Hospital.

A funeral notice states she passed away peacefully, but her death will be the subject of a four-day inquest examining how she died and what caused her death.

The inquest will further probe the hospital's clinical management of her case, including the adequacy of care Mrs Mead received from the multi-disciplinary team approach.

The inquest under Coronial Registrar Ainslie Kirkegaard will also probe the "appropriateness of the surgical decision making" relating to Mrs Mead's time in hospital, the "adequacy of communication between multiple treating teams" in relation to her post-operative condition, and case management.

Mrs Mead was discharged from the Toowoomba Hospital's ICU ward on February 25, 2015.

It is that timeline which is understood to be a critical aspect of the coronial inquest, specifically the "appropriateness of her discharge from the ICU" on that date.

The inquest will also examine whether the treatment and care Mrs Mead received at the hospital "reflect broader system failures".

Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service chief executive Dr Martin Byrne said the health organisation was co-operating fully with the coronial inquest process, and offered the service's sympathies to those who knew Mrs Mead.

"The death of Mrs Gwendoline Mead was a tragedy and I would like to extend my sympathies to her family and friends," Dr Byrne said.

"The coronial inquest process is to review the care of patients in hospital and to make recommendations about how care can be improved, where that is possible.

"To this end, as with all coronial matters, the Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service is fully co-operating with this process.

"Since this matter is before the coroner with an inquest set down for four days from January 30, 2017, we are unable to make any further comments."

The power of the coroner's court is its ability to examine a reportable death and establish any further information about the cause and circumstance of that death.

While a coroner can make recommendations about matters relating to the death, including any issues associated with the public health systems or the administration of justice, it cannot lay criminal charges.

The coroner's recommendations are aimed at preventing similar deaths in the future.

The inquest into Mrs Mead's death is scheduled to begin on January 30, and is expected to close on February 2.

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