A HOSPITAL patient on a coronavirus ward, who deliberately coughed and blew smoke in the face of a nurse, was jailed for nine months today.
Barry Ellis had been admitted to Arrowe Park Hospital after claiming he was showing symptoms of the disease.
But Liverpool Crown Court heard that he did not in fact have coronavirus or think that he did but medical staff did not know that.
Ellis, 47, who was drunk, had been rude all day, April 13, repeatedly asked for alcohol and demanded to go out for a cigarette but was told to stay on the ward to protect himself and others.
However he headed to a fire door and started shouting and swearing at the nurse and he lowered his surgical mask and coughed deliberately in her face, said Iain Criddle, prosecuting.
"He then inhaled in a cigarette and blew cigarette smoke in her face – all this done from a distance of approximately one metre."
He was aggressive to security guards who called the police.
Tests proved he did not have the disease and when arrested and interviewed he accused the hospital staff of lying.
The victim told police: "it was bad enough being a nurse at the moment" without having Ellis coughing at her.
She said she was really worried she may have caught the disease and passed it on to her family or other patients.
Mr Criddle said: "She says she became a nurse to help people and shouldn't feel scared when carrying out her duties."
Ellis, of Rock Lane East, Rock Ferry, who admitted assaulting an emergency worker, has convictions, stretching back more than 20 years.
John Weate, defending, said Ellis, who admitted being in breach of his suspended sentence, accepted causing "psychological trauma" to the nurse.
He said: "He is thoroughly ashamed of his actions, can only express his remorse through his guilty plea, and through me he apologises."
Judge Andrew Menary, QC, said the attack was "very unpleasant" as Ellis was being treated on a Covid-19 ward.
He said: "Sadly your behaviour generally throughout the time you were there was rude and abusive and difficult, making it very difficult indeed for the nursing staff and doctors to carry out their important frontline work."
He said Ellis "quite deliberately" coughed in the nurse's face within a "danger zone" of less than a metre, then "nastily" blew smoke towards her.
"It was a contemptuous act and the simple fact of the matter is that medical staff, doctors and nurses, are not obliged to suffer this sort of behaviour from people like you.
"Coughing on a nurse who is working on the frontline to save people's lives is totally unacceptable."
He said Ellis did not have the disease and probably did not even believe that he did, but the nursing staff were not to know that, "especially given your lifestyle".
Judge Menary said: "She was put in very real fear of contracting the disease itself, in circumstances where she and everybody else knows that nursing staff are contracting the disease from treating others and medical staff are suffering very significant symptoms and sometimes tragically even dying."