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Widower sues hospital for personal damages after wife's death

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Ambulances at the Accident & Emergency  department  at Beaumont Hospital yesterasy.PicTom Burke  19/7/03

Ambulances at the Accident & Emergency department at Beaumont Hospital yesterasy.PicTom Burke 19/7/03

Ambulances at the Accident & Emergency department at Beaumont Hospital yesterasy.PicTom Burke 19/7/03

A gravely ill woman was kept sitting in a chair for three days in the Accident and Emergency Department of Beaumont Hospital and died six days after eventually getting a bed, the Circuit Civil Court was told.

Her now 75-year-old husband, who visited her daily, is suing the hospital for up to €38,000 damages for personal injury allegedly caused to him by  psychological upset and distress he claims he suffered because of her treatment and since her death in June 2010.

Anthony Dignam, a chauffeur and taximan, of Limekilns, Malahide, Road, Swords, Co Dublin, claims his wife, Mary, had been an in-patient suffering with liver disease at St Patrick’s University Hospital, Dublin, and had been transferred on June 11, 2010 to Beaumont for daily review and treatment.

He alleges it had been agreed she would be admitted directly into a bed at Beaumont as her physical health and wellbeing was deteriorating.  She had spent three days sitting in a chair before getting a bed on June 14th.

Barrister Pat Purcell, counsel for Mr Dignam, told Judge Jacqueline Linnane that Mrs Dignam was gravely ill at the time and had died in Beaumont Hospital on June 20th.

Mr Purcell said Mr Dignam had become very upset and distressed as a result of the manner in which his wife had been treated and suffered psychological injury.  He was alleging negligence and breach of duty on the part of Beaumont Hospital.

The court heard the hospital had lodged a full defence including the seeking of a preliminary order striking out the claim on the basis it was statute barred and protected only by a late Personal Injuries Assessment Board authorisation to bring the claim. The hospital claimed Mr Dignam had never required authorisation under the PIAB legislation.

Judge Linnane said Mr Dignam did require an authorisation from PIAB.  He was not the person being treated in the hospital and his claim arose out of the pain he suffered in seeing his wife in a chair for three days before she had been given a bed.

The case will now continue to a full trial before the Circuit Civil Court.

The court had heard that on Friday, June 11, 2010 doctors in St Patrick’s had carried out a review of Mrs Dignam and it had been decided that the most appropriate course of action was to discharge her to the Gastroenterology Team in Beaumont.

Following talks with a member of the Gastroenterology team in Beumont it was agreed she should be admitted by the Beaumont Hospital medical team and that the Gastroenterology service there would review her daily over the weekend ant take over her care fully on the following Monday morning June 14.

Mr Dignam claims that at all times he believed his wife would be admitted directly into a bed particularly in circumstances where her physical health and wellbeing was deteriorating.  The St Patrick’s medical team also believed she would be given a bed immediately.

She had passed away on Sunday 20 the June and the cause of death had indicated she had been at a de-compensated end stage of alcoholic liver disease.  It had also been noted she had a subdural haematoma.

Mr Dignam claims the hospital was guilty of negligence and breach of duty, causing the incident of which Mr Dignam complains and causing the injuries and upset he suffered.

He alleges the Beaumont hospital failed to informed Mary Dignam’s consultant in St Patrick’s that a bed would not be available at Beaumont for upwards of three days.

He also claims Beaumont failed to properly assess Mrs Dignam and provide her with an appropriate level of comfort.

In his legal pleadings Mr Dignam states that following his initial visit to the A&E Department at Beaumont he became quite upset at seeing his wife in a chair but had been assured she would be provided with a bed as soon as possible.

When he had returned to the hospital laster that night, June 11th, he again realised his wife was still in a chair, attempting to sleep and looking very uncomfortable.

On the following morning (June 12th) he returned to see her and had been “confronted with the sight of his very ill wife sitting in the chair.”  He notified other family members including his son and daughter who visited the hospital and complained.

On June 13th he returned to Beaumont and was “horrified to see that his extremely ill wife was still sitting in a chair.”  It had been the 14th before she had been given a bed

In its defence the Hospital claimed staff  had afforded medical care and treatment to Mrs Dignam with skill, care and diligence.  The Hospital stated that while a bed had not become available until June 14 she had been provided with appropriate medical care and treatment.

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