Sunday 15 December 2019

Hospitals apologise over deaths of father and son 16 months apart

Esther Lonergan wanted apology earlier for the death of husband Eddie and son PJ
Esther Lonergan wanted apology earlier for the death of husband Eddie and son PJ

Tim Healy

A father and son died in separate cases 16 months apart after they had been in hospital the day before their deaths.

The wife and mother of Eddie and PJ Lonergan said the family felt "let down by the health board" and hoped it would never happen to anyone else.

Eddie and PJ Lonergan
Eddie and PJ Lonergan

South Tipperary General Hospital apologised to the family of PJ Lonergan (39), who died of an acute irregular heartbeat the morning after he was sent home from the hospital where two ECG tests had been conducted.

The apology was read out in the court as Mr Lonergan's son Mark (19) settled for €900,000 in his action against the HSE over the care of his father in May 2014.

In a separate case, the Department of Psychiatry at St Luke's Hospital, Kilkenny, also apologised as it settled an action against the HSE over the death of PJ's father, Eddie Lonergan (74).

He died on January 10, 2013 - the day after he was discharged after receiving psychiatric care. He had been transferred to St Luke's from South Tipperary General.

The settlement in relation to his death was confidential.

Speaking outside court, family solicitor Cian O'Carroll said his clients "were obliged to bring legal proceedings in order to achieve an apology, in order to bring the health service to the point of acknowledging publicly the wrong that had been done to the family members and the harm that had been done to the extended family".


Mr O'Carroll added: "And that's the repeated lesson that people ask the health service to learn - acknowledge early, and make the pain a little easier for those who have lost so much."

Esther Lonergan, Eddie's wife and PJ's mother, said: "We feel let down by the health board and it would have been nice if the apology had come earlier rather than later.

"I think it takes from the apology, which is a pity."

She said that for it to happen twice to the family in 16 months, "you know they will have to learn something from this - this shouldn't happen to somebody else".

It was claimed there was a failure to admit PJ to hospital on May 6, 2014, when he presented at the emergency department and had two ECGs.

It was claimed there was also an alleged failure to pay sufficient heed to an abnormal ECG and an alleged failure to consider all the possible different diagnoses for a patient with abnormal findings.

Aidan Doyle SC said the HSE accepted PJ Lonergan should not have been discharged - but contended that had the heart attack taken place in the hospital, the result may have been the same.

South Tipperary General Hospital apologised for shortcomings in the care of PJ Lonergan.

The hospital also extended its sympathy to the Lonergan family, from Templenoe, Cashel, Co Tipperary.

Approving the €900,000 settlement, Mr Justice Kevin Cross said it was a very sad case, but the settlement was an excellent one.

In the second case, Ms Lonergan agreed to settle her action over the death of her husband Eddie.

The court heard she had been married to him for 50 years when he took his own life on January 10, 2013, the day after he was discharged from St Luke's.

Jeremy Maher SC said Eddie Lonergan was a father and grandfather and that 2013 was another tragic year for the family.

Irish Independent

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