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Review after teen sexually assaulted in hospital bed

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Andrew O’Donovan received an 18-month suspended sentence for the assault. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Cork Courts

Andrew O’Donovan received an 18-month suspended sentence for the assault. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Cork Courts

Andrew O’Donovan received an 18-month suspended sentence for the assault. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Cork Courts

An Irish hospital ordered a full review of patient admission protocols after a 17-year-old patient was sexually assaulted by an elderly man with mental health problems who was placed in a ward bed right beside her.

Judge Seán O Donnabháin, who imposed an 18-month suspended prison sentence on Andrew O'Donovan (63) for sexual assault, was scathing of Cork University Hospital (CUH) management and supervision.

The teenage victim, who cannot be identified, said she should have been safe in hospital.

She has now demanded that the paediatric admission age be raised from 16 to 18 years.

CUH confirmed a full review was launched in the wake of the shocking incident two years ago.

"Management at Cork University Hospital have noted the comments of Mr Justice Seán O Donnabháin and wish to advise that following this incident a review of protocols for the admission of patients to hospital wards was undertaken," a spokesperson said.

"Factors such as accommodation, staffing and patient safety were examined as part of this review process."

The Irish Independent understands a key element of the review was the placement of male and female patients in close proximity on specific wards and the handling of patients with a history of mental health problems.

It emerged O'Donovan, of Butler's Gift, Drimoleague, Co Cork, had been treated for mental health problems for more than 35 years.

Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that he had known schizophrenic tendencies.

Both the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and Cork GPs have expressed concern over the revelations in the case.

Both stressed that it underlined the need for even greater staffing and ward resources in acute Irish hospitals.

CUH medical staff only became alerted to O'Donovan sexually assaulting the teenage girl when his heart monitor suddenly showed elevated cardiac activity.

The teen awoke at 5am to find him standing by her bed. When he began sexually assaulting her she was unable to reach the alarm button overhead.

Judge O Donnabháin described it as "a very, very troubling case".

"You have to question the management of the ward system at CUH that allowed a young girl to be placed in close proximity to a man who was known to have a history of schizophrenic tendencies and a long psychiatric history."

The judge said that the hospital management and supervision involved had to be queried - and warned that hospital management needed to "buck up".

Irish Independent