'No help' for nurse's family after death

2:50am December 11, 2012
December 10, 2012: When radio hosts Mel and Michael called the King Edward VII hospital last week, they had no idea of the chain of events it would spark. Now, the 2Day FM DJs reveal what really happened in an emotional interview with ACA’s Tracy Grimshaw.

A family left behind by the apparent suicide of a London nurse, following a prank phone call from 2DayFM, is yet to receive any counselling from the hospital where she worked.

British MP Kieth Vaz visited the home of Jacintha Saldanha over the weekend, saying her husband and two teenage children have been left "shocked and bewildered" by her death – but had been offered little by way of support.

2DayFM presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian, who have been given counselling because of their "fragile" mental state, said they were "shattered" by Mrs Saldanha's death in an interview with A Current Affair last night.

Mr Vaz told BBC Radio 4 he would like to see Mrs Saldanha's grieving family get the same level of support from King Edward VII's Hospital in London.

"They are devastated by what has happened, they are shocked and they are bewildered. What is necessary is a focus on their needs," the MP said.

"The hospital has sent them a letter which I have seen, but I am a little surprised that nobody has made the journey to Bristol to sit with them and offer the counselling they need.

The family of London nurse Jacintha Saldanha.
The family of London nurse Jacintha Saldanha.

"More support needs to be given. I've spoken to the chairman of the hospital. There is a need to demonstrate that support."

The hospital said it had contacted the family by telephone on Saturday and offered to meet them at the home in Bristol or in London, the Telegraph newspaper reports.

Mrs Saldanha, originally from southern India, was pronounced dead last Friday morning at staff accommodation near her hospital.

The 46-year-old had picked up the prank call and put it through to another nurse, who revealed details of pregnant Kate Middleton's condition.

2DayFM's owner, Southern Cross Austereo, reacted to growing alarm over the story by pulling the two hosts off air until further notice, axing their show, suspending all advertising on 2Day FM until further notice and forbidding any prank calls across its network.

The company also expressed its "deep and sincere condolences" to the nurse's family.

"We are very sorry for what has happened," said CEO Rhys Holleran.

Lord Glenarthur, the chairman of the hospital, condemned the prank call as "extremely foolish" and said the station's "premeditated and ill-considered actions" led to the "humiliation" of Mrs Saldanha and another nurse.

The hospital also now says the radio station never checked with them before the hoax was broadcast.

2DayFM said it had tried to contact the hospital five times to discuss the prank call.

But a hospital spokesman said: "Following the hoax call, the station did not talk to anyone in hospital senior management or anyone at the company that handles our media inquiries."

In last night's interview, Greig said she was prepared to attend any inquest in London and see the nurse's family face to face.

"If that's something that they want to do, to get some closure, then I'll do that," she said.

"It was meant to be a silly little prank that so many people have done before. This wasn't meant to happen."

"I haven't stopped thinking about it since it happened. I remember my first question was, 'Was she a mother?' I can't imagine what they (the family) would be going through."

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have also sent their condolences to Saldanha's family.

Their spokesman stressed that they had not complained to the hospital about the hoax call, saying: "On the contrary, we offered our full and heartfelt support to the nurses involved and hospital staff at all times".

Britain's Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, asked by Sky News what lessons needed to be learned, said: "I think we need to make sure that the right safeguards are in place, that the right training is in place, but I think it's too early for me to say whether this is something which is just an individual prank that went horribly wrong and it was an isolated breach or whether there are more widespread issues".

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

Source: AAP, Telegraph

Author: Erin Tennant

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