Barefoot dementia patient (80) with IV drip in her arm allowed to leave hospital
An elderly woman with dementia was able to leave an emergency department without supervision and make her way home by taxi, while wearing no shoes and with an IV tube attached to her.
University Hospital Limerick has launched an investigation into how Margaret Kirkby (80) left the premises.
She had been taken to UHL by ambulance from a nursing home in Co Clare last Friday as she had "very low" oxygen levels and required intravenous antibiotic treatment.
Her son Paul said that his mother knocked on the door of the family home in Shannon at around 6pm that evening.
The pensioner was able to leave the emergency department, despite her trolley being placed in front of a nurses' station, Mr Kirkby said.
He said that his brother received a phone call from a nurse at UHL, apologising.
"One saying, 'We have lost your mum' and then he was saying, 'It's OK, she's back in the house.'"
He said the whole family was in shock over the incident. "I don't think it's really sunk in with what could have happened. We were all shocked, of course. It's just nuts.
"Anything could have happened. It appeared she got off the trolley, she had no shoes on and somehow got a taxi back to the house," he said.
However, the family and the hospital are uncertain as to how she left, entered a taxi and made her way home to Shannon.
A spokesperson for the UL Hospitals Group said that it "can confirm that it is examining the circumstances involved in this incident and is dealing directly with the family concerned. We would like to reiterate the apology that has already been expressed directly to the family.
"The level of supervision required by all patients is determined on a case-by-case basis by the medical and nursing teams."
Mr Kirkby said his mother had an IV line in her arm and was not wearing shoes when she left the emergency department. "She was probably just in her own head, 'I am going home', and then just walked out the door, she had some money on her. You feel sorry for them (hospital staff) because it's just crazy, but in the public interest, people need to know what's going on."
The nursing home said Ms Kirkby returned to the centre at around 6.30pm, accompanied by her son who "expressed his disappointment in relation to how his mother was discharged from A&E. All residents who leave our establishment by ambulance to go to A&E immediately come under the care of the HSE until they are transferred back to our home.
"Margaret is back with us now and is receiving relevant treatment for her conditions with her family fully informed of care being given."