Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Hospital staff must be better prepared

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No wonder the Duchess of Cambridge fled her hospital bed as soon as she could stand upright without chucking.

I know a couple of women who've had hyperemesis gravidarum - I just didn't know it was called that - and it is dreadfully debilitating.

So at a time when the Duchess was feeling worse than she has ever felt in her life - and when she's at a precarious time in her pregnancy - you'd expect better of the hospital taking care of her.

It beggars belief that the staff could have been taken in by a couple of Aussie radio DJs who didn't produce terribly good English accents when pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles. They talked utter nonsense yet, unbelievably, they got put through to the Duchess' ward.

The two DJs should never have made the call.

I'm quite certain they never expected to be put through to anyone in authority but their foolish prank has resulted in the nurse who put the call through dying yesterday, possibly at her own hands.

The mother of two wasn't the one who divulged information on the Duchess' condition - she was merely the one who patched the call through - but she was obviously terribly upset that she had been taken in.

The hospital is apoplectic over the entire incident, though much more moderate in the wake of the death. Earlier, chief executive John Lofthouse had placed the blame squarely at the door of the Australian radio station. "Our nurses are caring professional people trained to look after patients, not to cope with journalistic trickery of this sort," he said.

The two Australian DJs have been stood down from their jobs, and rightly so. They didn't intend for this prank to have such dire consequences - but it did and they must pay the price.

But really, you'd have to wonder what sort of messages the hospital was giving its staff. They should have been warned there would be journalists crawling all over the place trying to gain information by fair means or foul.

If you've heard the tape, it is extraordinary that anyone with half a brain would believe the person on the end of the line was the Queen. The hospital executives should have told all staff to transfer any queries about the Duchess' condition to their media liaison officer.

Although the royal couple hasn't laid a complaint with the hospital - indeed, they've offered their sympathy and support to the dead nurse's family - the royals must be horrified at how easily their privacy and the hospital's security was breached.

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- Herald on Sunday

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