Repairs done near dying mum
Stunned: Carol Cunningham. Picture: Steve Ferrier/The West Australian

Royal Perth Hospital has apologised to a South Lake family after contractors carried out plumbing work just centimetres from a dying woman's bed.

Mother-of-two Michelle James, 45, was in bed in her single bedroom in the bone marrow unit on June 12 when two plumbing contractors entered the room without notice or explanation.

Ms James, who was nearing the end of a five-year battle with lymphoma, was unconscious and deteriorating rapidly.

She died the next day.

Her mother Carol Cunningham and her best friend were visiting her when the contractors arrived.

A stunned Mrs Cunningham questioned why the men needed to be in the room and was told there had been an issue with the hot water in adjoining rooms.

The men left the room within 20 minutes but returned about an hour later to work on a sink next to Ms James' bed.

Mrs Cunningham had to move from her position next to her daughter to allow the workers access to the sink.

"She fought so hard, then to have that happen the day before she died, it's heartbreaking," Mrs Cunningham said.

"When I asked a nurse why the work had to be done that day when I was trying to spend time with my daughter, I was told to calm down and that I was overreacting.

"They had no empathy for the situation and my daughter was denied any respect or dignity."

When Mrs Cunningham, tried to complain about the incident she was told to put in a written complaint before being given the number for the complaints line.

"They told me to call back tomorrow," she said. "I was fobbed off."

After inquiries by _The West Australian, _Mrs Cunningham had a phone call of apology from an RPH executive but the family are yet to get a formal written apology.

"No one deserves to be treated like that," Mrs Cunningham said. "Michelle was a vivacious, beautiful woman and mother and we don't want this to happen to anybody else. Everytime I close my eyes - the image of them next to my daughter is etched in my mind. It haunts me."

RPH acting executive director Alex Smith said in light of the incident, hospital management would review facilities maintenance procedures.

The West Australian

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