Sunday 15 December 2019

Alzheimer's patient died after swallowing glove, court told

HSE takes case against care home over alleged breach of regulations

Conor Kane

AN ALZHEIMER'S patient died in hospital five days after ingesting a latex glove in his nursing home bedroom, a court heard yesterday.

James Griffin (67) suffered from severe dementia and was found by nursing home staff suffering from cardiac arrest and a loss of breathing before a glove was removed from his airway by emergency personnel.

He died in hospital five days later, on November 13, 2008.


The Health Service Executive (HSE) has taken a prosecution against the Mowlam Nursing Home in Waterford city in relation to the death, accusing it of a breach of nursing home regulations and failing to provide sufficient care to Mr Griffin.

A complaint was brought against the nursing home, located at Ballinakill Downs on the Dunmore Road in Waterford, by the deceased's brother, Brendan Griffin.

The nursing home is contesting the prosecution.

Waterford District Court yesterday heard that a three- person investigation team was established by the HSE, consisting of its senior area medical officer, public health nursing director and environmental health officer.

Paramedic Tony Madigan told how he received a call at the ambulance station on the night of November 8, 2008, about a patient who had gone into cardiac arrest at Mowlam Nursing Home.

He and a colleague arrived at 7.47pm and were told by a nurse that staff had already had to remove a latex glove from Mr Griffin's airway earlier in the day.

When they got to his room, Mr Griffin was in a "collapsed state" on the floor, with two care assistants administering CPR. He and his colleague took over and attempted to revive the patient.

On the fifth round of drugs they administered, they got a cardiac response from Mr Griffin but he was still not breathing unaided so they brought him by ambulance to Waterford Regional Hospital.

One of the HSE's investigation team, senior area medical officer Dr Brett Lynam, told the court that inspections of the nursing home found that latex gloves were left in assisted/ disabled bathrooms, where the doors were unlocked.

The nursing home was already on notice, he said, that Mr Griffin had tried to ingest "non-food items" such as gloves.

"I'm not convinced that the care was suitable and sufficient because the man was able to get hold of latex gloves and swallow them and choke," Dr Lynam said.

Such gloves should be accessible to staff, he said, but not to patients.


Asked if he ever ascertained where exactly Mr Griffin obtained the glove he swallowed, Dr Lynam said it was "suggested" he got them in an assisted bathroom. A carer had also told him there was a box of gloves on Mr Griffin's bed.

The deceased had no physical disability, according to Dr Lynam, but did have advanced dementia and was prone to wandering.

Mr Griffin was admitted to the nursing home, from Waterford Regional Hospital, in 2007. He lived in a first-floor high-dependency unit.

The case was adjourned until May 11.

Irish Independent

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