Wa­ter-cri­sis death came dur­ing ‘false sense of se­cu­rity’

Hawke's Bay Today - - Local News - Doug Laing

Keith Sparks­man still thinks about the what-ifs.

Son of 89-year-old Have­lock North wa­ter-con­tam­i­na­tion vic­tim Jean Sparks­man, Keith holds no grudges, just won­ders what might have been.

Speak­ing af­ter the pub­lic re­lease of a coro­ner’s re­port find­ing his mother died as a re­sult of the con­tam­i­na­tion on top of a pre­vi­ously un­di­ag­nosed coro­nary artery con­di­tion, Keith, of Whanga­paroa, says “noth­ing else” can be done.

“I think it’s fairly ac­cu­rate,” he said of the re­port by Coro­ner Pe­ter Ryan, who said Jean Sparks­man died “as a re­sult of be­com­ing in­fected with campy­lobac­ter in a back­ground of coro­nary artery dis­ease and ap­pen­diceal tu­mour”.

She was found dead in her Mary Doyle Life­care Cen­tre ser­viced apart­ment about 5.45am on Au­gust 13, 2016, the day af­ter the Have­lock North wa­ter cri­sis be­came pub­lic.

Campy­lobac­ter symp­toms spread through the retirement vil­lage, schools and busi­nesses in Have­lock North.

At least four deaths have been at­trib­uted to the out­break, which af­fected more than 5000 peo­ple, put 44 in hospi­tal and led to a ma­jor Gov­ern­ment-or­dered pub­lic in­quiry.

Keith Sparks­man agrees with the coro­ner’s view that his mother, who had been oth­er­wise healthy be­fore­hand, lived with a “false sense of se­cu­rity” gen­er­ated by the ser­viced-apart­ment and mon­i­tored en­vi­ron­ment in which she lived a short dis­tance from the Have­lock North vil­lage cen­tre, and did not seek med­i­cal help be­cause of that.

He said his mother, born and bred in Hast­ings, was “in­de­pend- ent”, hav­ing only a short while pre­vi­ously sold her home and moved to the life­care cen­tre. She’d lived in Hast­ings as a widow for 15 years af­ter the death of her hus­band, and had only re­cently stopped driv­ing af­ter more than 50 years with a li­cence.

Keith Sparks­man said his mother prob­a­bly had a right to as­sume she would be looked af­ter.

His sis­ter has been re­ported as a say­ing the com­plex was in lock­down in the be­lief there had been a norovirus out­break, and it may have been dif­fer­ent had staff been aware of the wa­ter con­tam­i­na­tion.

A care­giver had vis­ited Jean Sparks­man af­ter she was re­ported by an­other res­i­dent to be un­well three days be­fore her death.

Be­cause of her symp­toms she had been given a glass of re­hy­dra­tion fluid and en­cour­aged to main­tain a high fluid in­take.

There were “no other ob­vi­ous” con­cerns when she was vis­ited about 2am on Au­gust 13, but she was found dead in the apart­ment hours later.

The coro­ner did not blame staff, say­ing that while a GP be­lieved Jean Sparks­man should been seen by a health pro­fes­sional on Au­gust 12, when she was not im­prov­ing, she “man­aged all as­pects of her own health” and there was no re­spon­si­bil­ity on the care­givers to re­fer her to pri­mary health care.

"I think it’s [the coro­ner’s re­port] fairly ac­cu­rate." Keith Sparks­man, son

Vic­tim Jean Sparks­man, 89, had an un­di­ag­nosed con­di­tion.

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