Family's questions over Covid death of beloved hospital care worker

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital has paid tribute to Christine Emerson, who worked as a healthcare assis

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital has paid tribute to Christine Emerson, who worked as a healthcare assistant. The mother and grandmother died after contracting coronavirus. Picture: Queen Elizabeth Hospital - Credit: Archant

The family of a health care worker who died of Covid-19 have questioned why she was allowed to continue working after being deemed as high risk of catching the virus.

Christine Emerson, who worked at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, is believed to be the first NHS worker in East Anglia to die from the virus, having died on April 19, 2020.

Mrs Emerson, a mother-of-six and grandmother-of-six, contracted the virus in the early stages of the pandemic and died in the same hospital she worked at a week after being admitted to A&E with a high temperature and Covid symptoms.

And at an inquest into her death, members of her family have questioned why she was allowed to work in the midst of the pandemic - having been identified as a high risk of catching the virus.

The 64-year-old from Terrington St Clement had a range of medical complications which weakened her immune system and made her more vulnerable to the coronavirus, including hypothyroidism and a form of arthritis.

She was also being treated with beta-blockers at the time, which increased her vulnerability to the virus.

The inquest heard that a risk assessment carried out by the hospital identified her as being high risk and she had been recommended to stay away from work - but was not specifically told she could not.

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And her daughter Joanna questioned why the hospital had not given her specific direction not to work, rather than leaving it up to her to decide.

She said: "I do not think she should have been there at all - it is clear they [the hospital] knew the risk she was at.

"We as a family think that if the risk assessment showed she was at a greater risk, a senior member of staff should have told her not to come in. If she was not there she may not have caught it."

Following her death, the hospital has paid tribute to her by unveiling plans to name a ward after her at the King's Lynn site.

In a written statement read to the hearing, Ellie Masterson, a sister in the same department as Mrs Emerson, said: "She will be a very missed colleague both professionally and personally."

Senior coroner Jacqueline Lake adjourned the hearing to allow the hospital to respond to the family's questions.