Tuesday 17 September 2019

'Five years too late' - family speaks out as clinic apologises for death of mother-of-two from sepsis

  • Susan McGee died 11 days after the hernia operation at the Hermitage
  • The apology was read out as part of a €300,000 settlement to the family
Daughter of Susan McGee (inset), Melissa Barry, at a Coroner's Court inquest in 2015
Daughter of Susan McGee (inset), Melissa Barry, at a Coroner's Court inquest in 2015

Tim Healy

A private medical clinic has apologised in the High Court for the failures in the care provided to a woman who died from sepsis after developing a rare infection following a hernia operation.

The apology from the Hermitage Medical Clinic in Dublin was read out as part of a €300,000 settlement to the family of 52-year old Susan McGee who died eleven days after the hernia operation. 

Ms McGee, a mother of two died at a Dublin hospital on July 24, 2013, having developed a rare Clostridium Difficile infection affecting almost her entire bowel.  It followed the hernia operation at The Hermitage 11 days earlier.

A verdict of medical misadventure was returned at the inquest into the death of Ms McGee, from Skerries Road in Rush, Co Dublin.

Ms McGee's daughter, Melissa Barry, following the settlement, said the  death of her mother had a catastrophic effect on the family and their world has never been the same since her death.

"Our mother is missed every day by her entire family and a large circle of friends.

"We owed it to our amazing mam to seek answers and justice. We hope she can now rest in peace while we can rebuild the rest of our lives," Ms Barry said.

She said the apology and admission are  welcome but they have arrived five years too late.

She added: "The Hermitage Medical Clinic has reasurred us new procedures are in place for the handover of patients and we hope lessons have been learned.

"Patients need to be assured that details of their medical condition and care plan are properly communicated  if they are being put in to the hands of a different medical professional. Hospital staff must also listen to and act on the concerns of a patient's family."

Melissa Barry, Grange Rise, Stamullen, Co Meath and her brother John McGee , Bretton Woods, Skerries Road, Rush , Co Dublin had sued the Hermitage and consultant surgeons  Arnold Hill and Colm Power,  who practised at the clinic, over the circumstances of her care when she attended the clinic in 2013.

It was claimed there was a failure to respond adequately or at all to the deterioration in the condition of Ms McGee when she was readmitted to the Hermitage  over the weekend of 19 to 21 July 2013, days after the original hernia operation.

It was also claimed that her care had been delegated to two surgeons without clearly delineating appropriate reporting structures and ensuring that one doctor would be in  receipt of all relevant information.

Liability was admitted in the case.

The apology read to the court said the  Hermitage, together with Professor Hill and Mr Power, extend their sincerest condolences and apologies to Ms McGee's family arising out of her death and "for the failures in her care."

It added:" We have put in place additional measures to address the lessons learned from our review of her care."

Simon Mills SC, for the family, told the court Ms McGee was admitted to the Hermitage on July 13, 2013 and  during the hernia operation, she suffered a tear to the bowel which he said was a non negligent act and antibiotics were prescribed.

She was discharged on July 16, but readmitted the next day as she was unwell. counsel said.

Professor Hill went on a planned vacation on July 19 for which there is no criticism offered . Ms McGee was left in the care of Mr Power and another doctor.

However, Mr Mills said the third doctor was not available as he was rostered to work in another hospital.

Ms McGee's condition deteriorated and it was claimed she was not seen by a doctor of consultant status at any time between Friday July 19 and the morning of Monday July 22, 2013.

She deteriorated very significantly and when assessed on July 22, she had emergency treatment but died two days later.

Approving the settlement Mr Justice Robert Eagar sympathised with the family on their loss.

Susan McGee pic.jpg
Susan McGee of Skerries Road, Rush whose family have called for clear failsafe handover protocols in place in every hospital to ensure proper continuity of patient care.

A statement issued on behalf of the McGee family by their solicitor Dermot McNamara said today’s outcome brought “little consolation” to them. “It has taken five years to bring this case to the point where the defendants had no alternative but to admit responsibility and apologise for the failure in medical treatment that caused the death of Susan McGee.

“Until recently, the defendants denied any responsibility – leading the family to question whether the policy of open disclosure is actually practised by the medical profession.

“The McGee family remain convinced that Susan would be alive and with them today if there had been a proper handover of her care when her consultant went on holiday in July 2013.

“The family feel strongly that there should be clear fail-safe handover protocols in place in every hospital to ensure proper continuity of patient care.”

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