Hospital patient not seen by staff for hours before death
A WOMAN who died in hospital was not seen by medical staff for seven hours on the day of her death.
The patient at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick rang her son that morning to say she was dying.
Details of the case emerged yesterday in the annual report of Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly, who investigated the case. The Ombudsman found problems with the hospital's record-keeping resulted in family members not being with her when she died.
The man received a call from his mother at noon, arrived at the hospital at 1.30pm but was not briefed by medical staff of the seriousness of his mother's condition until approximately 5.45pm. The woman died that night before other family members could arrive at the hospital.
"You can imagine how distressing this was for the family," Ms O'Reilly said.
When the Ombudsman investigated a complaint from the family, she found the hospital could not confirm if the woman was seen by staff on the day of her death.
Nursing and medical staff notes indicated that on the balance of probabilities she had not been seen between 10am and 4.30pm that day.
Following the investigation, the hospital apologised and introduced guidelines and training aimed at ensuring next-of-kin were contacted in a timely manner.
The Ombudsman also investigated a case where a woman was refused a second opinion despite confusion over her diagnosis.
The woman, who was suffering with heart palpitations, was initially diagnosed as having long QT syndrome – a genetic abnormality which gives rise to the risk of sudden death from vigorous exercise – by a consultant cardiologist at Letterkenny General Hospital in June 2007.
But another consultant she was referred to gave a contradictory diagnosis.
The woman then wrote to Letterkenny General, seeking an urgent second opinion.
However, this wasn't acted upon and the woman felt she had no option but to arrange a further opinion herself privately. This eventually clarified she did not have the condition.
Following the Ombudsman investigation, the HSE apologised and refunded her costs. Also highlighted in the report was a case where the Department of Social Protection wrongly withheld €68,000 in pension entitlements from a widower.
The man applied for the pension a decade after his wife's death, but the department initially refused to backdate the payments to the year of the woman's death.