Family 'devastated' by care given to mum before death
Published 27/11/2010 | 05:00
A DEVASTATED daughter expressed "grave concern" over the level of care given to her mother who died five days after being admitted to one of the country's busiest hospitals.
Colette Donohoe (54), from Crumlin, Dublin, a mother of two, died in St James's Hospital on August 22, 2006, after she was referred by a GP after complaining of vomiting and severe pain in her abdomen.
Her daughter, Jennifer Donohoe, said any inquiry would not bring her mother back but the family wanted to ensure "such unnecessary deaths" did not happen in the future.
She said it had a "devastating effect on my family" and not having any of their concerns answered by the hospital "makes it almost unbearable".
In a letter read out to the Medical Council fitness-to-practise hearing, Ms Donohoe outlined her concerns over the treatment her mother received while in the hospital under the care of locum consultant surgeon Javaid Ahmad Butt.
Mr Butt attended the hearing yesterday where he faced an allegation of professional misconduct, including failing to arrange any or adequate treatment of a bowel obstruction. However, Mr Butt has yet to take the stand to give evidence to the committee.
An expert witness at the hearing said Mrs Donohoe should have been "offered surgery" for bowel obstruction on Monday, August 21, at the "very least".
Professor David Bouchier-Hayes, a now retired professor emeritus at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, said if the patient continued to have symptoms, such as pain and vomiting, then it was obvious that conservative management had failed.
By the time the decision to proceed with surgery was taken this patient was mortally ill and unlikely to be salvaged by any intervention, Prof Bouchier-Hayes said.
Ms Donohoe said her mother had been "left for five days with her condition worsening". A point highlighted frequently by the family was that she had not had a CT scan carried out of her abdomen or surgery ordered until the day of her death.
The hearing heard Mrs Donohoe began to feel unwell on Tuesday, August 15, 2006, and was referred to the hospital by her GP on suspicion of having a strangulated hernia along the lines of a scar, which was suspected of blocking her bowel.
However, Mr Butt refuted the claims of the family and stated in his original letter to the council that they had decided upon the "conservative management" approach, which would involved fluids. He said there had not been any strong signs of obstruction or she would have been immediately brought to surgery.
Ms Donohoe told the committee that the family were told by a trainee doctor in A&E that a CT scan would be carried out on the Friday morning if the symptoms persisted.
The family said they were called into the hospital after she took 'a turn', but were reassured after speaking with Mr Butt on Tuesday, August 22, who said the CT scan had showed the hernia was obstructing the bowel and surgery was necessary but a standard procedure.
Her husband, Noel Donohoe, said Mr Butt told them it was a routine operation. Mrs Donohoe was pronounced dead on the evening of August 22 before the exploratory operation took place. She died of multi-organ failure due to sepsis.
The CT scan of her stomach area never took place on the Friday and there was a note in the records to say it had been declined by the radiologist.
The committee heard the patient was viewed by the on-call team over the weekend but there were no notes taken. Prof Bouchier Hayes said that was "totally unacceptable".
Legal counsel for Mr Butt objected on several occasions, saying the opinions were being based on the sporadic visits of family over a weekend which was not an "accurate account of care".
The committee will resume hearing evidence on Monday.