Friday 9 December 2016

€2.4m interim settlement awarded to boy (4) left severely brain damaged after failure to diagnose bacterial infection

Published 28/07/2016 | 13:45

Little Eoghan Dunne was just a few weeks short of his first birthday when he was brought to A&E Portiuncula Hospital
Little Eoghan Dunne was just a few weeks short of his first birthday when he was brought to A&E Portiuncula Hospital

A four year old boy who has been left severely brain damaged after a failure to diagnose and treat in time for a bacterial infection has settled his High Court action with an interim payout of €2.4m.

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Little Eoghan Dunne was just a few weeks short of his first birthday when he was brought to A&E Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, Co Galway with a fever. He was also breathless and letharagic.

His Counsel Bruce Antoniotti told the High Court Eoghan should have been given antibiotics straight away as the results of assessments should have raised the alarm. Counsels said his experts on his side would say that the results of tests caried out on the babty indicated a bacterial infection.

Counsel said the baby was brought to the A&E at Portiuncula Hospital around 16.40 on August 3, 2012. A note at 6pm recorded the baby was to commence intravenous antibiotics but Counsel said this did not occur at that time. The baby's condition deteriorated and he was, after midnight on August 4, 2012 in "severe respiratory distress".

At this stage seven hours after he arrived at the hospital Counsel said broad spectrum antibiotics were suggested.

Counsel said his side would say the antibitiocs should have been administered once the baby arrived at Portiuncula Hospital.

Mr Antoniotti said his side could not say no damage would have occurred if that had happened, but it may have been minor damage, if any.

Little Eoghan was transferred to Temple Street Childrens Hospital, Dublin but at this stage he was critically ill and in septic shock.

Counsel said the boy at 6.45 am on August 4, 2012 suffered a cardiac arrest and it took ten minutes to resuscitate him.

Baby Eoghan was diagnosed as suffering from a severe necrotising pneumonia and sepsis with multi organ failure.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told Eoghan who celebrates his fifth birthday soon has cerebral palsy, cannot walk or stand unaided and has to be fed through a peg tube. He is also partially blind and can only detect movement.

Counsel said in a letter to Eoghan parents, Teresa and Ronan Dunne, the general manager of Portiuncla Hospital James Keane had sincerely apologised for the failings in the care provided to Eoghan on August 3 and 4, 2012.

"I also wish to apologise for the manner in which the internal hospital review was undertaken and communciated to you both at that time, As you are aware a full HSE review is opening in to all aspects of Eoghan's care," it said.

The apology continued: "I do not underestimate how traumatic this has been for you both and the many challenges that your family has faced as a result of the treatment provided to Eoghan."

Eoghan Dunne, Cappyroe, Ballinagar, Tullamoe, Co Offaly had through his mother Teresa sued the HSE as a result of the failings in his care at Portiuncla Hospital. The court heard full liability was admited in the case this week.

Mrs Teresa Dunne told the court her son had to celebrate his first birthday while in a coma.

"I will never see my son take his first steps, play football, go to college, or fall in love but he has a family who love him who will make sure he had a a good life and we will next week have a party to celebrtate his fifth birthday and his life."

She showed a picture to the court of her son which was taken on August 2nd just a day before he became sick.

In an emotional statement read to the court, she described the pain her son had endured over the past four years as "unbelievable" and particularly as a tube had to be inserted so he can be peg fed.

"He cried and cried every time. My heart was breaking every time," she said.

 She spoke of her shock when her son was transferred to the Dubluin hospital and they were told his chances of survival were 50/50 and said she wanted to forgive as well for the "human mistakes made". She hoped lessons have been learned.

Approving the interim payment for the next four years, Mr Justice Kevin Cross said that despite criticism of what he described as "compensation culture", litigation was sadly sometimes the only way that families like the Dunnes could achieve justice.

In a statement outside the court, Eoghan's father, Ronan Dunne, said the failures in care at Portiuncula Hospital had had a "catastrophic impact" on his son's health.

"We are relieved to have reached today's settlement and acknowledge the admission of laibility and the apololgy. However, we must add our names to the long list of families who have stood where we stand now and called for change to the system," he said.

He said the State had only this week accepted liability, and the hospital had only apologised to the family today.

The family, he said, had four years of "incredible stress and worry" and had put everything they had at risk to progress the case.

Eoghan, he said had lost out on possible therapy and treatments during that four years.

The Dunnes said they would never understand how unprepared the hospital was for an admission such as Eoghan and on how on completion of a first review the case "nobody thought we deserved to receive a copy."

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