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Patient's surgery 'near miss' among 3,664 complaints against State

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On the rise: Ombudsman Peter Tyndall said there were overall increases in the number of complaints to almost every sector under his jurisdiction. Photo: Mark Condren

On the rise: Ombudsman Peter Tyndall said there were overall increases in the number of complaints to almost every sector under his jurisdiction. Photo: Mark Condren

On the rise: Ombudsman Peter Tyndall said there were overall increases in the number of complaints to almost every sector under his jurisdiction. Photo: Mark Condren

A hospital patient who experienced a 'near miss' due to a mix-up in medical records as she was about to undergo surgery was among more than 3,000 complaints lodged against State bodies last year.

The case was just one of 3,664 complaints received by the Ombudsman in 2019, representing an increase of 9pc over the previous year - the largest rise in official complaints since 2010.

In his annual report for 2019, Ombudsman Peter Tyndall said there were overall increases in the number of complaints to almost every sector under his jurisdiction, including the HSE, local authorities and government departments.

In one case, a woman who was at Letterkenny University Hospital preparing for a surgical procedure complained to the State watchdog after a doctor began discussing the medical history of another patient, who turned out to share the same name as her.

After she realised that the medical history was not hers, she discovered a letter on her file concerning the other patient with the same name.

She immediately cancelled the surgery and complained to the hospital, but was unhappy with how it responded, according to the report.

It found the hospital had also erred by not completing a 'general incident/near miss' form as required immediately after the incident. When the form was filled out after the patient complained, it contained inaccuracies.

The hospital's general manager apologised to the patient and has since provided refresher training on medical record-keeping.

In another incident, a feud between neighbours on a council estate in Co Cork led to an official complaint against a tenant after the council claimed he had breached his tenancy agreement by using "abusive and insulting language" against his neighbour in an online tweet and blog following a court case involving the neighbours.

The Ombudsman found that the tenant had not been given a chance to respond to the allegations and that the council had no policy regarding the use of social media by tenants.

The negative comments about the tenant on his tenancy record were subsequently removed.

In another case, Wexford County Council was ordered to pay a builder almost €28,000 in unpaid interest that he was entitled to receive from cash bonds totalling €175,000 that he lodged as security for completion of a housing project.

While the council stopped paying interest on such bonds in April 2015, the bonds in question were lodged well before the policy change, hence the council was found to have acted unfairly, and it agreed to pay the outstanding interest.

Meanwhile, Mr Tyndall said the number of complaints concerning local authority housing rose by almost 13pc between 2018 and 2019.

Complaints over education - including student grants and grants for people with disabilities - rose by 17pc in 2019.

There was also a sharp increase in complaints involving the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

Irish Independent