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Pregnant nurse who died of COVID-19 felt ‘pressured’ to work, inquest hears

Inquest into Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong's death opens

Inquest into Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong's death opens

A heavily pregnant nurse working with patients with COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic felt pressured to work despite concerns for her safety, her inquest heard.

Inquest hears from nurses widower

Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong was a sister at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital and worked up until March 12, 2020 when she was signed off work with back problems, her widower Ernest Boateng said at the inquest at Bedfordshire and Luton Coroners Court.

But Mr Boateng said his wife, who was 28, continued to go into hospital

Inquest into Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong's death opens

Mary Agyapong worked at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital in the early stages of the pandemic when in her third trimester of pregnancy
Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong worked at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital in the early stages of the pandemic when in her third trimester of pregnancy Picture: Alamy

A heavily pregnant nurse working with patients with COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic felt ‘pressured’ to work despite concerns for her safety, her inquest heard.

Inquest hears from nurse’s widower

Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong was a sister at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital and worked up until March 12, 2020 when she was signed off work with back problems, her widower Ernest Boateng said at the inquest at Bedfordshire and Luton Coroner’s Court.

But Mr Boateng said his wife, who was 28, continued to go into hospital to confirm her ill-health and to attend medical appointments.

Ms Agyapong was admitted to hospital with breathing difficulties on 5 April and was discharged later that day, but was readmitted two days later with coronavirus symptoms when she was 35-weeks pregnant.

The couple’s baby, also named Mary, was born by Caesarean section before Ms Agyapong was transferred to the intensive care unit, where she died on 12 April.

Ms Agyapong was anxious about transmission risks

The preliminary cause of death was given as pneumonia and COVID-19.

Giving evidence to the inquest, Mr Boateng said: ‘Mary continued to work during this time [the start of the coronavirus outbreak], but was very concerned about the situation involving COVID-19, so much so that when she came home from work she would take her clothes off at the front door and take a shower immediately.

‘She was very worried about bringing COVID into the home.’

Mr Boateng added that his wife also began sleeping in the spare room at the family home to protect her husband and their son AJ.

‘She told me the staff were scared about the virus because they were on the front line and likely to come into contact with COVID-19 patients,' he added.

‘I wanted her to stay at home. But due to high demand at the hospital, she had to continue working. She tried to reassure me that everything would be okay but I could understand she was anxious and panicking deep down.’

Mr Boateng said he strongly believed his wife contracted coronavirus while at work. ‘My understanding is Mary was being pressurised to get back to work, as she had meetings about her sickness records earlier that year,' he said.

Inquest begins as UK marks anniversary of first national lockdown

Mr Boateng said Ms Agyapong ‘struggled’ with her second pregnancy and ‘continued to work long, 12-hour shifts’.

‘She found it tiring and difficult,' he said.

The inquest heard Ms Agyapong was signed off sick from 13 March, and never returned to work as she then took four weeks’ annual leave before her maternity leave was due to begin.

Ward 12, where Ms Agyapong worked, was split in half on 18 March to accommodate COVID-19 patients, the hearing was told, although there was no infection on the ward at this time.

Jonathan Holl-Allen QC, for Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, asked Nicola Hinselwood, Ms Agyapong’s senior colleague on ward 12: 'Was there any question of Mary being pressured either to return to work or to remain at work?'

Ms Hinselwood replied: 'Not to my knowledge.'

Mr Boateng said he was not allowed onto the maternity ward to be with his wife when their daughter was born on 7 April. ‘What was supposed to be a happy moment in our lives quickly changed into a traumatic and painful loss,' he said.

The inquest opened on Tuesday 23 March, a year on from the beginning of the first national lockdown which was designated as a day of reflection to remember those affected by the pandemic.

The hearing continues.


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