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Healthcare assistant branded pensioner 'an animal'

By Staf Newsletter  |  Posted: February 12, 2013

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A HEALTHCARE assistant at scandal-hit Stafford Hospital branded an elderly patient an 'animal' as she forced him from the toilet with his trousers down, a tribunal heard today.


Bonka Kostova hurled abuse at the 73-year-old patient as she dragged him around by the collar of his pyjamas, the tribunal heard.

When nurses intervened, she told him: "You are no longer a human being but an animal", the Nursing and Midwifery Council was told.

Bulgarian-born Kostova, a trained midwife covering as a healthcare assistant, was caring for the pensioner, referred to as patient A, on a night shift at the Weston Road hospital on July 22, 2010, while a colleague went on a break.

The patient, who suffered from Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's, was staying on the urology and colorectal ward to receive treatment for kidney stones.

He had been placed in a wheelchair next to the nurse's station after he was found wandering the ward in a confused and agitated state at around 3.30am.

"At one point he went to get up and staff nurse Jane Wilkinson saw the registrant push him back down into his wheelchair," said Rebecca Wood, for the NMC.

"Ms Wilkinson took patient A to the toilet and then went to answer a call bell.

"When she returned she witnessed the registrant pulling patient A out of the toilet, pulling him by the collar of his pyjama top.

"His trousers were around his ankles, his genitals exposed.

"Due to the aggression shown and the fact Patient A had no dignity, staff nurse Wilkinson intervened at that point, pulling patient A's trousers up and assisted getting him back into the wheelchair."

After staff nurse Wilkinson stepped into the situation, Kostova is said to have starting shouting at the patient. 

"The registrant was reported to shout 'I hate him' and 'I really hate him'', said Ms Wood.

"She made reference to him being like an animal, and said she hated working with people like this."

Kostova's case is the first to be brought before an NMC misconduct panel since the publication of a damning report into standards at Stafford Hospital.

The two-year inquiry, led by Robert Francis QC, found 'failures at every level', including patient left lying in their own urine for days, forced to drink water from vases, and sent home with life-threatening conditions.

As many as 1,200 patients are thought to have died unnecessarily, with Mr Francis conceding the true figure will probably never be known.

The NMC says 41 current or previous nurses and midwives at the hospital are under investigation, with ten facing a public hearing into their standards of care.

Kostova, who was employed by the hospital between April 2009 and September 2010, shunned today's misconduct hearing in central London.

The midwife is also said to have breached the patient's privacy by leaving the toilet door open during the incident. During an internal disciplinary investigation, she claimed she had been trying to restrain Patient A after he started wandering over to the ladies' side of the ward.

She told bosses at the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust he had walked out of the toilet with his trousers down by himself, but said she could not rule out having shouted at him.

"What is clear is there was general aggressive and abusive behaviour by this registrant towards Patient A on that evening," said Ms Wood.

An earlier hearing into Kostova's alleged misconduct had to be abandoned after it emerged the NMC had been sending information to an old address.

She has now been contacted, but said in an email she did not want to engage with the hearing.

"I don't want to practice as a midwife, I am quite happy to work as a carer only", she said.

Kostova has not formally admitted or denied any of the charges she faces.

The hearing continues.

Robert Courteney-Harris, Medical Director at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust said: “This incident was dealt with very swiftly when it happened in 2010.

"Bonka Kostova was suspended pending our investigation and never returned to work at our trust.”

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