AN internal inquiry is under way at Tallaght Hospital in Dublin into the death of a patient just days after he was found having a cardiac arrest in its severely overcrowded A&E department.
The man, who is believed to have been elderly, died over the weekend in intensive care after suffering a cardiac arrest the previous Tuesday night when the emergency department was described as "dangerously overcrowded".
A hospital spokesman told the Irish Independent: "While we are precluded from mentioning individual cases, Tallaght Hospital has in recent days been made aware of a concern raised by a member of staff with regard to a deceased patient.
"This only came to the attention of senior management on Thursday evening.
"The matter is being investigated further by way of an established internal process and a decision will be made as to the status of the complaint following an internal review of the facts.
"The Coroner has been notified as part of this process."
A letter seen by the Irish Independent, which was forwarded by a senior doctor to hospital management, the HSE and HIQA last Thursday morning, called for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding how the man had a cardiac arrest.
Dr James Gray, an emergency consultant, told the HSE that the "patient was found to be in a cardiac arrest in a cubicle" in the emergency department.
A doctor on call, who checked on him, found the patient suffering serious symptoms when he entered the cubicle.
"We are not sure how long the patient was in cardiac arrest.
"The emergency department was dangerously overcrowded and understaffed. I have asked that this critical incident be investigated by the local risk directorate."
He described how, on early Wednesday morning, 52 patients were being processed in the emergency department.
"These patients have no privacy, no confidentiality, no dignity and poor infection-control protection."
Their positioning posed a fire and evacuation hazard contrary to a Health and Safety Authority Improvement notice, which was issued to the hospital in 2010.
He warned that the evidence was clear that "overcrowded emergency departments lead to poorer outcomes including mortality for patients.
"The risk of our next untimely death remains high while the emergency department overcrowding continues," he added.
He urged HIQA to continue to inform the HSE and the Department of Health of these continuing risks and demand that the recommendations of an investigation that it carried out two years ago be fully implemented.
HIQA needs to get the long-delayed statutory power to order the closure of a department that is unsafe, he said.
Two years ago, an open verdict was recorded after an inquest into the death of a patient at Tallaght Hospital emergency department.
There were nine patients on trolleys in Tallaght yesterday as more patients on waiting lists had their admissions postponed.
A spokesman for HIQA said yesterday that it had written to the director general of the HSE, Tony O'Brien, seeking assurances about the implementation of recommendations in its report on Tallaght two years ago.
Ten newly recruited nurses began their five-day induction yesterday.
There were 37 interviewed between Thursday and Friday of last week and 23 offers have been made.