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Thursday 21 September 2017

Woman not seen for seven hours on day she died in hospital

Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly
Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly
Mid-western Regional Hospital in Limerick

A WOMAN who died in hospital was not seen by medical staff for seven hours on the day of her death.

The patient at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick rang her son that morning to say she was dying.

Details of the case emerged in the annual report of Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, who investigated the case.

The Ombudsman found problems with the hospital’s record-keeping resulted in family members not being with her when she died.

The man received a call from his mother at noon, arrived at the hospital at 1.30pm but was not briefed by medical staff of the seriousness of his mother’s condition until approximately 5.45pm.

The woman died that night before other family members could arrive at the hospital.

“You can imagine how distressing this was for the family,” O’Reilly said today.

Following an investigation, the hospital apologised and introduced guidelines and training aimed at ensuring next-of-kin are contacted in a timely manner.

The case was one of 3,412 complaints made to the Ombudsman last year, a figure slightly down on 2011.

Not all of the complaints were investigated, with the Ombudsman urging those involved in 1,453 cases to take "reasonable steps" to resolve the complaint first.

Excluding these "premature complaints", the highest number of issues raised related to the Civil Service, with most involving the Department of Social Protection.

It accounted for 624 of the 917 complaints against the Civil Service.

Some 80 complaints were made against the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and 78 against the Revenue Commissioners.

Local authorities accounted for 595 complaints, of which 59 were against Dublin City Council, 48 against Cork County Council and 36 against Galway County Council.

Another 413 complaints were made against the HSE.

Among the complaints dealt with against the Department of Social Protection was a case where €68,000 in pension entitlements were wrongly withheld from a widower.

The department was also found to have given the wrong advice on job seekers benefit to a man who was moving his family to Guernsey in the Channel Islands. It incorrectly assured him he would be entitled to transfer his benefit there, causing great distress to him and his family when the truth was discovered.

Ms O'Reilly said her office was increasingly discovering "a tightening" which was making it more difficult for people to claim benefits they were previously entitled to, such as the discretionary medical card.

She said officials were "applying the letter of he law" and not using their discretion.

"The cost to individuals was enormous," she said.

By Shane Phelan,  Public Affairs Editor

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