Huge increase in complaints to Ombudsman
Probe into discharge of seriously ill homeless man forces hospital change
A LEADING hospital had to change its discharging procedures after a homeless Bangladeshi man with life-threatening illnesses was left to find his own accommodation -- even though he could barely walk.
The 45-year-old man was admitted to another hospital the following day, but died there three weeks later.
He had lived in Ireland for seven years prior to his death in 2008.
The man suffered from serious illnesses including TB, diabetes, heart disease and chronic hepatitis B with cirrhosis of the liver.
St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin changed the way it discharged vulnerable patients following an investigation into the incident by Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly.
Ms O'Reilly published the results in her annual report yesterday.
The man, who was not named, had been admitted to St Vincent's on two occasions in 2008, and he was discharged by taxi the second time.
He was sent to the asylum seeker's unit in Gardiner Street in the capital, even though he had difficulty walking, where he was given money to find accommodation.
However, he slept on the floor of a friend's house, and was admitted to a different hospital the next day, where he later died.
The man's immediate family was in Bangladesh, and the complaint to the Ombudsman was made by Cairde, an organisation which works to reduce health inequality among ethnic groups.
Ms O'Reilly also said yesterday that the jobs crisis has led to a massive increase in the number of people complaining to her office over access to dole and other welfare payments.
She said the "scale and depth" of the recession meant a huge number of complaints focused on the Department of Social Protection.
However, Ms O'Reilly praised the work of the staff in the department, and said the increase in complaints was due to the increase in numbers passing through the system.
Other complaints dealt with by the Ombudsman's office included:
•Arrears of €11,178 paid from the Department of Social Protection to a garda who had an application for a disabled pension refused.
•A man who was refunded the €200 second home charge from Limerick County Council. The €200 charge has to be paid on homes that are more than 2km away from someone's primary residence. The complainant pointed out that his second home was 2km away if measured by road, but less than that if measured as the crow flies.
•A woman who complained about the treatment of her dying husband in Beaumont Hospital. The woman said her family had to call for a priest to administer the last rites, rather than having staff do it.
In total, the Ombudsman's office received a total of 3,727 complaints in 2010 -- a rise of 30pc on 2009. There were 1,181 complaints about the Department of Social Protection in 2010, a rise of 53pc on the previous year.
"It is evident from the huge upsurge in complaints made to me in 2010, a new record high, that growing numbers of people are experiencing difficulties with our public services, especially with unemployment and benefits," Ms O'Reilly said.
Ms O'Reilly also ruled out a tilt at the Presidency this year. She has long been suggested as a possible candidate with a number of political parties, but definitively ruled this out yesterday.