Inquest hears of “horrendous” hospital transfer

A Waltham Forest bicycle courier and “gentle giant” with a serious head injury was transported between hospitals propped up on the floor of a van.

A jury is due to hear seven days of evidence about the death of Robert Walaszkowski, who died in November 2019 of complications from the injury, which he suffered about a month earlier.

Robert injured himself running into a door at mental health facility Goodmayes Hospital and was immediately taken by ambulance to Queen’s Hospital in Romford.

At the first day of his inquest yesterday, his grieving sister questioned why he was discharged the next evening and not sent back in an ambulance.

In a statement read to court, his friend Natasha described the way he was sent back to the mental health facility as a “horrendous event”.

She wrote: “Staff at Queen’s put him in a wheelchair and tied him around the chest with a blanket to keep him in, as he was falling out. His arms were drooping and his legs weren’t moving.

“The transport was a people carrier with a caged area in the back. They put him on the floor with his head against the seat, his head was hanging forward.

“I asked the driver ‘shouldn’t he be in the ambulance?’ He replied ‘I didn’t book the van’. As it drove off I heard [Robert] crying out and wailing ‘no’.

“I couldn’t believe how he was just propped on the floor, while he was travelling no one could assist him. The van he was travelling in was not appropriate for his condition.”

The court also heard from Goodmayes Hospital nurse, Rayman Avorgbedor, who cared for Robert while waiting for the ambulance and remembered he was “conscious and talking” when he left the ward.

He said: “He looked at me, I was right beside him, and he said ‘thank you for saving my life’.”

Rayman had to provide further emergency treatment when Robert arrived back at the mental health hospital, having lost consciousness on the way over.

At Queen’s Hospital, Robert was looked after in the Monet ward, under the care of Dr Joe McCarthy, who also spoke before the jury yesterday.

Dr McCarthy said that a patient like Robert would normally be seen by a junior doctor on arrival but that “there were no juniors on that day”.

He added: “I didn’t get the opportunity to sit down with him and conduct a mental health examination. This was my last day working on the ward before moving on to a different ward and I was handing over.”

A post-mortem found Robert died from bronchopneumonia, hypoxic brain injury and spine injuries on November 15 2019.

He had suffered from paranoid schizophrenia since he was a teenager and was troubled by the suicide of his older brother Darek in 2010.

In a written statement read to jurors, his sister Dorota said her brother grew up with her in Poland before moving to London in 2011.

Once here, he was “taken in” by Darek’s friends in the city and became close friends with the community of bicycle couriers.

She wrote: “He was an exceptionally loving and kind person. A gentle giant who was big and kind.

“He would talk with homeless people for hours trying to understand their situation and help them.”

The inquest is scheduled to continue until September 22.

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter