A&E doctor hits out at lack of vital ventilators
Published 26/08/2014 | 02:30
A leading A&E consultant has hit out at the lack of lifesaving ventilators in one of the country's busiest emergency departments.
Dr James Gray, emergency medicine consultant, said it was a "disgrace" that engineers at Tallaght Hospital were forced to "cannibalise" other machines to keep equipment going.
He made the comments at the inquest into the death of Diana Martin (34), a mother of three from Fettercairn Road, Tallaght, who died at the hospital on May 31 last year after going into septic shock having developed pneumonia.
It emerged during the inquest at Dublin Coroner's Court that a ventilator used in her resuscitation stopped working without sounding a warning and was off for a seven-minute period. Ms Martin was without oxygen for at least four minutes before doctors realised that the machine was off.
Ms Martin, who had a background of alcohol liver disease and was on a methadone programme, was admitted to Tallaght A&E by ambulance at 8.39am with difficulty breathing. She was alert on arrival, however, she twice went into cardiac arrest.
As medics attempted to resuscitate her they noticed the ventilator had switched off without the alarm sounding a warning. Staff noticed after four minutes and began manual ventilation. She was pronounced dead minutes later.
On the second day of the inquest, Dr Gray said Ms Martin was critical when she came into the hospital. The ventilator failure happened "well into resuscitation" during a second round of cardiac arrest when "survival rate is not good".
The failure of the ventilator was a concern and he raised it with the risk management team, he said. A second ventilator machine has since been purchased.
"We need another two. Two is not enough. There is an issue in the hospital around equipment and monitoring. We have monitors that the company has ceased producing parts for since 2011 and suppliers have ceased supplying us parts since 2014," he said.
The Medical Physics department are doing "Trojan work to keep machines across the hospital going", he added. "In fact, cannibalising some machines to keep other machines going. That is a disgrace," he said.
The head of the Medical Physics department, Dr Barry McMahon, told the court the machine was sent to the manufacturers who found "no fault with it that could have contributed to it losing power" and it was still in use in the hospital.
Pathologist Dr Paul Crotty gave the cause of death as septic shock and said it was "unlikely" that the ventilator failure was a "critical factor" in the death.
Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said that he had no "causal connection" between the four minutes Ms Martin was without oxygen and her death. He returned a narrative verdict.
After the inquest, Ms Martin's brother Wayne Milson said that the family still had unanswered questions.