Hospital worker uses COVID-19 patient’s bank card for snacks minutes after woman’s death

BIRMINGHAM, England — An English hospital worker assigned to a COVID-19 ward has been convicted of using an elderly patient’s bank card to buy snacks minutes after the woman died.

Ayesha Basharat, 23, of Birmingham, pleaded guilty Wednesday to theft and fraud by false representation, according to West Midland police officials. She was given five months in jail, but the sentence was suspended for 18 months.

“This was an abhorrent breach of trust and distressing for the victim’s family,” said Andrew Snowdon, a detective constable with the West Midlands Police Department. “They were having to come to terms with the death of a loved one from COVID when they found the bank card missing, and then of course the realization that the card was taken by someone who should have been caring for her.”

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Authorities said the 83-year-old victim died Jan. 24 at Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham. A doctor caring for the woman recorded her time of death as 1:56 p.m.

Security footage shows a person using the woman’s card to buy snacks from a vending machine 17 minutes later. The person, who police later identified as Basharat, bought £6 worth of chips, candy and soda.

Basharat bought £1 worth of snacks later that same evening, police officials said.

She tried to use the dead woman’s card during her next shift four days later, but by that time the card had been canceled by the victim’s family. Basharat was arrested at the hospital that day.

Basharat “initially claimed she found (the card) on the floor and got it ‘muddled up’ with her own card when paying,” according to a news release. “However, they were different colors and the court heard how she ignored hospital protocol around patient lost property.”

Basharat eventually admitted to the crime.

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A hospital spokesperson told the BBC that Basharat was suspended immediately after the incident was discovered.

“Ayesha Basharat was immediately suspended when this incident came to light and all steps were taken to support the patient’s family,” the spokesperson said. ‘The trust has fully supported the police with their investigation and a result of Ms. Basharat’s conviction, the trust will now proceed with our internal HR processes, with due consideration given to the criminal conviction that Ms. Basharat has received.”