Thursday 19 September 2019

Family of father who took his own life accuses HSE of 'air-brushing' tragedy

Out to prevent future deaths like this: Sandra Broderick, wife of John, at his inquest in Mallow yesterday. Photo: Provision
Out to prevent future deaths like this: Sandra Broderick, wife of John, at his inquest in Mallow yesterday. Photo: Provision

Ralph Riegel

The heartbroken family of a man who took his own life after he allegedly suffered relentless bullying at work accused the Health Service Executive (HSE) of an attempted "air-brushing" of the case.

Cork North Coroner Dr Michael Kennedy recorded a verdict that father-of-one John Broderick (35) took his own life at the Munster Joinery premises in Cork on August 28, 2018 - just 24 hours after he had been treated at the emergency department of University Hospital Kerry (UHK) for a self-harm attempt.

Admitted to hospital: John Broderick had been very upset in the days before his death and had attempted to self-harm the day before he took his own life
Admitted to hospital: John Broderick had been very upset in the days before his death and had attempted to self-harm the day before he took his own life

However, he was released from UHK having not met the emergency admission criteria.

The inquest heard a HSE psychiatrist assessed the young man as having "a passive death wish and no active suicide plan".

Solicitor Eimear Griffin, acting for Mr Broderick's widow Sandra, hit out at the HSE for not sending a representative to the inquest.

"There is an air-brushing from the HSE," she said.

"Sandra Broderick's sole motivation is to prevent another death like this going forward."

Dr Kennedy opened the inquest last December but adjourned it so that he could write to Munster Joinery, one of Ireland's biggest construction supply firms, after Ms Broderick said her husband had suffered relentless bullying at work.

The coroner sought information on the firm's anti-bullying policy.

In a letter to the inquest from solicitors Malone Hegarty, on Munster Joinery's behalf, it was pointed out Mr Broderick was not directly employed by the firm but by a contractor.

Both firms had anti-bullying policies and both confirmed no incidents of bullying involving Mr Broderick had ever been notified.

Munster Joinery had, immediately after the tragedy, implemented a critical incident response which involved offering counselling and supports for workers.

Mr Broderick, who lived in Killarney, Co Kerry, took his own life at work on August 28, 2018. He had attempted to take his own life just days earlier.

Ms Broderick wept last year as she told the inquest he informed the person allegedly bullying him that he suffered from depression and pleaded for the bullying to stop.

She said her husband was "roared at" in front of fellow employees and effectively belittled.

"John had his good days and his bad days. He could go to work and be really happy and he could also come home crying," she said.

Mr Broderick had proposed to his wife at the 2011 Cork City Marathon and she described him as "the most romantic man in Ireland".

However, the inquest heard he had been very upset in the days before his death and had told his wife "she would be better off without him".

He then contacted his wife and another family member to say goodbye. He was taken to UHK on August 27, 2018 having attempted to self-harm.

In a letter to the inquest, a HSE psychiatrist said that: "All steps in managing this gentleman's (case) were taken."

A HSE critical care nurse tried to ring Mr Broderick at 11am on August 28 but he had taken his life just over an hour earlier.

After the inquest into Mr Broderick's death, the HSE's Cork-Kerry Community Healthcare office issued a brief statement - and indicated it had not been informed of the inquest date.

"We wish to extend our sincere sympathies to the Broderick family at this difficult time," a spokesperson said.

"Our resource officers for suicide prevention remain available to provide support to the family and community if required.

"Whenever we are asked to assist the coroner's court and inquest process, we do so to the best of our ability.

"In this case, we were asked to submit a report and did so. We were not asked to attend the inquest or advised of the inquest date."

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News