Dad-of-four died of COVID on Christmas Day after ambulance sent to wrong address

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·Freelance Writer
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Steve Cooke died after struggling for breath for hours at his home on Christmas Day. (Katie Milne)
Steve Cooke died from COVID after struggling for breath for hours at his home on Christmas Day. (Katie Milne)

The partner of a man who died from COVID on Christmas Day after paramedics were sent to the wrong address has branded the ambulance service a “disgrace”.

Steve Cooke, 36, was self-isolating on 25 December last year after testing positive for coronavirus two days earlier, and had spent the morning video-calling his children.

Cooke, a primary school caretaker and youth football coach, soon became more ill and struggled to breathe and called 111 for help.

But while he waited and struggled for breath at his house in Chatham, Kent, paramedics from the South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb) were sent to the flats opposite his home after the call handler struggled to hear him.

Unable to locate Cooke, the paramedics moved on to another emergency, while the call handler phoned his partner Katie Milne, who was living separately with their children.

Paramedics from South East Coast Ambulance Service were sent to the wrong address. (Dickelbers/Wikipedia/Creative Commons)
Paramedics from South East Coast Ambulance Service were sent to the wrong address. (Dickelbers/Wikipedia/Creative Commons)

But a coroner heard that the call handler once again failed to take the correct address, did not listen to Milne's response and hung up after 62 seconds.

Milne tried to call her partner but "assumed he was sleeping” when he did not pick up the phone but she "started to panic" the next day when she realised his phone was switched off.

She drove to Cooke's home where she was told that his body had already been found by police.

Watch: Javid: NHS needs more money amid growing waiting times

Milne, 34, said: ‘’It’s shocking they gave up on Steve and just moved on. We both gave the same address and they still went to the wrong place. It’s a disgrace.

“He was lying there for around eight hours before he died.”

She added: ”If someone had called me back to say we still can't find him, I would have gone straight down there.

"If he had got the help he could have survived, without a doubt.”

Secamb said at the time that they were dealing with "unprecedented levels of demand” during a spike in COVID cases but said it was reviewing the case to "mitigate against a similar event occurring”.

A spokesperson added: "We take any concerns raised by a coroner seriously and prior to receiving this report we were already undertaking a review of any responses to wrong addresses…

“We are due to send our full response to the coroner imminently and will ensure we take forward any further learning.”

South East Ambulance Service said at the time they were dealing with high demand due to a spike in COVID cases. (Getty/file photo)
South East Ambulance Service said at the time they were dealing with high demand due to a spike in COVID cases. (Getty/file photo)

The inquest concluded that Cooke died of "COVID-19 pneumonia due to COVID-19 infection”.

Earlier this month, Nicola Sturgeon was forced to apologise for long ambulance waiting times in Scotland after a pensioner died after waiting 40 hours for emergency services to arrive.

Dad-of-three Gerald Brown, 65, contacted emergency services after struggling to move after falling at his home but they did not reach him for two days, when he had already passed away.

It came after a surge in coronavirus cases which resulted in rising numbers of patients in Scottish hospitals with coronavirus.

Watch: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?

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