HSE ordered to pay woman €170,000 over death of baby
A CRITICALLY ill pregnant woman sent on a two-hour ambulance journey – which led to the death of her baby – has been awarded €170,000 in High Court damages.
Fiona Ni Chonchubhair (36), of Countess Road, Killarney, Co Kerry, was sent from Kerry General Hospital in Tralee on a 71-mile journey to Cork Regional Hospital in an ambulance without equipment for a blood transfusion, despite the fact that she was bleeding internally.
When the ambulance arrived in Cork, it took another 15 to 20 minutes for the crew to locate the accident and emergency unit.
What happened to Fiona and her husband Stephen Cotter was "the stuff of nightmares" and must be "burnt into their memories as an example of the most disastrous incompetence", Mr Justice Sean Ryan said in making the award yesterday.
Speaking afterwards, Ms Ni Chonchubhair – a mother of three, who is expecting her fourth child – said she had brought the case because she didn't want it to happen to anyone else.
When the case opened, the judge was told the HSE had carried out an internal review of the case and had made 12 recommendations to ensure it would not recur. But Ms Ni Chonchubhair told the judge she had no confidence the recommendations would be followed.
Her solicitor Adrian Hegarty said his client had shown bravery and taken a huge risk in taking on "a machine like the HSE".
"The memory of baby Aodh had been duly vindicated and we just wanted to ensure the HSE will follow through on the recommendations made by the judge today," he said. "It was important we got into court and showed the people of Ireland what the HSE did to the Cotters."
In her action, Ms Ni Chonchubhair sued for severe personal injuries and shock due to negligence and breach of duty.
The court heard when she finally got into Cork Regional, she was operated on and received six units of blood to replace what she had lost but the transfusion was too late for her baby – named Aodh – who was delivered still-born by emergency caesarean section on May 16, 2009.
What had happened involved "bad decision making" and "extraordinary ineptitude", Judge Ryan said.
The HSE accepted this led to the "dreadful tragedy" of Aodh's death.
He assessed damages in a total sum of €170,000 for Ms Ni Chonchubhair against the HSE who admitted liability and apologised.
He noted Ms Ni Chonchubhair felt they were ignored and treated with some degree of indifference in the Tralee hospital.
He said he wanted to concentrate on the serious questions, that there was a transfer 71 miles to Cork when there should not have been.
In fairness, the judge said, the HSE had apologised, there was a clear admission of responsibility and that should make some difference.