Hospice praised after taking in elderly man evacuated from fire

Ernie Bruns

Ernie Bruns - Credit: courtesy of Saint Francis Hospice

An elderly man who has Parkinson's disease was taken in by a hospice after being evacuated from his Dagenham home when fire struck.

Ernie Bruns, 88, was accepted at Saint Francis Hospice in Havering-atte-Bower after last week's blaze, which saw a total of 14 homes destroyed.

His wife of 68 years, Dot, recalled that the couple were at home on Tuesday morning (July 19) when she smelt smoke.

She said: "At first, I thought someone was having a barbecue.

“Our grandson was in the garden at the time and he could see the grass in my neighbour’s garden was on fire. 

"There were lots of loud bangs as cars were exploding."

Dot said police attended and told them to leave but she would not go without her husband, who is bedbound and in the late stages of Parkinson's.

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Martyn Tillett, from the London Ambulance Service, came across the couple and their grandson and said they needed to be rescued, despite only having one ambulance at the scene.

He explained that this vehicle already had an injured firefighter on board.

“We had no bed to place the patient (Ernie) onto and, whilst knowing the easy option would have been to get a frontline ambulance to the scene and convey the family to hospital, this would not have been the best option for our patient."

Martyn called the hospice to ask for assistance as Ernie was already known to them and the charity agreed to take him in.

Dr Corinna Midgley, medical director at the hospice, recalled that the situation "sounded desperate".

She added: “Ernie went straight into a bed on the ward and we were able to establish comfort, care needs, catch up with medical issues, ensure the right medications were in place and find something for Ernie and Dot to eat.

“He is with us pending an update about home. He is keen for home but comfortable here and Dot has stayed by his side throughout.”

Dot had nothing but praise for the hospice and also her grandson, who she said retrieved Ernie's medication and rescued their cat Dotty.

"Everyone at the hospice has been absolutely brilliant," she said.

"I don’t know what we would have done without the hospice - they haven’t just looked after Ernie, they’ve looked after me too.

"Ernie couldn’t be in a safer place.”