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Hofer ‘should have been restrained’

A friend and former colleague of Thomas Hofer spoke yesterday of how saddened he was that the quadriplegic's lawsuit against the hospital where he was paralysed had collapsed.

Gerhard Lipp, who worked with Mr Hofer at the Once Upon a Table restaurant on Serpentine Road in Pembroke, told The Royal Gazette: “There is no justice for the victim.”

Mr Lipp, who remains in regular touch with 52-year-old Mr Hofer, recalled the day in February 1994 when his friend suffered a psychotic episode and was taken by police to St Brendan's mental hospital.

He got a call to say Mr Hofer was at the facility and immediately went there, telling nurses on his arrival to “take special care” of the 30-year-old German guest worker, as he feared he might harm himself.

According to court documents filed by the Bermuda Hospitals Board in 1999, Mr Hofer was in the care of a registered psychiatric male nurse when he was injured.

The nurse said he watched the patient shouting, screaming and throwing himself about his bedroom before placing him in a more secure room and tranquillising him. In the seclusion room, according to the BHB, Mr Hofer “suddenly and without warning threw himself against a screened window” before standing up and walking towards a mattress on the floor and then falling on to the mattress.

The nurse said he checked for injuries and found none. Subsequently, he was treated at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital for a later accident at St Brendan's, in which he allegedly fell off a bed and hit his chin on the floor while being assisted by a male nurse. His broken neck was discovered on an X-ray during that visit.

Mr Lipp said that no one really knew what happened to Mr Hofer because hospital authorities never made public the findings of their inquiry into the accident and because the personal injuries lawsuit filed against the BHB by the patient in 1997 never went to trial.

It was struck out by the Chief Justice in August after 18 years because it took too long to prosecute.

“Why didn't it come to trial?” Mr Lipp asked. “It should have come to trial and it would have come out. They should have asked the nurse who was looking after Thomas [to give evidence].”

He said the nurse, Alan Bentham, left Bermuda after the accident but later contacted him to say he would do anything he could to help Mr Hofer. Court papers reveal that Mr Bentham was traced to an address in Lancashire, in northwest England, and wrote to lawyers long after the accident to confirm that he was available to give evidence.

Mr Lipp, 62, said his friend was a fun-loving, hard-working young man who played the accordion, loved sports and enjoyed his work as a chef when tragedy struck.

“It's just so sad that it could have been prevented,” he said. “They should have been more careful with him. He should have been restrained.”

Health food store owner Mr Lipp, who is originally from Germany and is now Bermudian, said the sequence of events that led to his friend being paralysed should be made public.

“It's like somebody covered up something and now they have succeeded because now it's the end of the case. The cover-up worked because Thomas didn't really have anybody to represent him. It's hard to describe how I feel about the negligence of the treatment.”

The BHB said yesterday it would make no further comment on the case.

Gerhard Lipp is happy that his friend is safe in Germany. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published November 05, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated November 05, 2015 at 8:32 am)

Hofer ‘should have been restrained’

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