Guardian : "Detention centre failures contributed to death of asylum seeker, inquest finds" - 25/05/12
* Diane Taylor
* guardian.co.uk, Friday 25 May 2012 19.45 BST
"Neglect by immigration detention centre staff contributed to the death of a Pakistani asylum seeker after he suffered a heart attack, an inquest jury has found.
Staff at Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre, near Heathrow airport, failed to call 999 soon enough, to administer CPR or have a working defibrillator available, an inquest at West London coroner's court, found.
Muhammad Shukat, 47, a driver from Islamabad, died following a cardiac arrest last July. His 19-year-old roommate Abdul Khan pressed the emergency buzzer 10 times over a period of almost two hours, trying but failing to get Shukat, a man he called "uncle", help.
The UK Border Agency, which commissions Serco to run the centre, said the verdict was "deeply worrying" and demanded radical action to address the problems.
The inquest heard that nursing staff and custody officers did respond and did carry out health checks, but did not call 999 as soon as the alarm was raised at 5.30am on 2 July. Instead, the indigestion treatment Gaviscon was administered, along with aspirin, and Shukat was told he could go and see the centre's doctor at 8am. By that time, he had had a cardiac arrest.
When staff realised that Shukat's heart had stopped and brought the emergency kit, the defibrillator was missing. A nurse went to collect one but it was faulty and another one had to be fetched, causing a delay of about 15 minutes.
Khan told the inquest that Shukat, a smoker, was sweating and groaning as a result of severe chest pain. Asian men are at higher risk than white ones of heart attack as are smokers.
Dr Iain Brew, an independent doctor who was commissioned by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman to produce a report reviewing the incident, told the inquest: "A 47-year old Asian man who has chest pain, normally uncomplaining, who is known to smoke, found to be sweaty and grey, should have prompted suspicion about cardiac problems and an ambulance should have been called." He made recommendations for improvements in healthcare practices at the centre.
The jury found that healthcare staff underestimated Shukat's cardiac problems and that if they had called 999 earlier and had a working defibrillator in the emergency bag his life may have been saved. Khan says he is still extremely distressed by the incident. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following Shukat's death.
"I was not an anxious person before but now I'm anxious and easily frightened. I had never seen such a thing in my life before," he said.
The UK Border Agency said: "We have demanded the strongest possible action by the contractors to address the failings highlighted by this case.
The findings of the inquest are deeply worrying and we will consider them in detail." He added that any contractors failing to deliver would be "held to account" and that work had begun to make changes to healthcare systems.
A Serco spokesman said that steps had been taken to rectify and address the issues raised in the inquest. "All the recommendations made in the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman report have been implemented," he said."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 August 2012 11:53