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Teenage girl who died from meningitis left on hospital trolley for up to 16 hours

Aoife Johnston was remembered as ‘kind’ at her funeral yesterday 


Aoife Johnston was eventually prescribed antibiotics but it was too late. Her condition had deteriorated beyond the point of recovery

Aoife Johnston was eventually prescribed antibiotics but it was too late. Her condition had deteriorated beyond the point of recovery

Aoife Johnston was eventually prescribed antibiotics but it was too late. Her condition had deteriorated beyond the point of recovery

A teenage girl who died of bacterial meningitis at University Hospital Limerick was left on a trolley for up to 16 hours despite pleas from her distraught family.

Aoife Johnston (16) was laid to rest yesterday amid heart-breaking scenes in Shannon, Co Clare.

She was remembered as “beautiful”, “kind”, and someone who brought light to the world.

Independent.ie has learned that an official inquiry known as an “incident management review” is to be launched into the circumstances surrounding Aoife’s sudden death and the care she received at University Hospital Limerick (UHL).

The much-loved teenager was left on a trolley in the severely overcrowded Accident & Emergency department for a period of between 13 and 16 hours.

It is understood that she was eventually prescribed antibiotics but it was too late. Her condition had deteriorated beyond the point of recovery.

Staff at the hospital are understood to have repeatedly raised concerns about the chaotic overcrowding in the hospital over recent weeks but the situation has continued to deteriorate.

In a statement issued to Independent.ie this morning, the hospital said: 

“UL Hospitals Group can confirm that following the death of a teenager from meningitis in University Hospital Limerick on 19th December a Serious Incident Management Team has been established and a comprehensive investigation will take place. UL Hospitals Group extend our sincere condolences to the family following their devastating loss."

The HSE has confirmed UHL experienced its “busiest weekend ever.”

On Monday the hospital warned that anyone coming to the A&E with a non-urgent condition would face an “exceptionally long wait” for treatment.

All but the most urgent elective surgeries and outpatient diagnostics were cancelled amid “record high” attendance on Sunday, which saw 221 people presenting.

With 251 people on Saturday, hospital bosses said it’s the “busiest weekend ever recorded” in the Dooradoyle facility.

Normal attendance figures on a Sunday at the ED in UHL are between 150 and 180 patients.

It is believed Aoife Johnston was classified as a “category two” patient which meant her situation was not regarded as life-threatening.

Category one patients are those in need of resuscitation or those suffering conditions such as a heart attack or a stroke.

Well-placed sources described the A&E department at UHL last Saturday night as an “out of control situation” due to a lack of doctors, nurses and beds.

More than 90 patients were left on trolleys between Saturday and Sunday last weekend.

The latest figures available show that 88 people were on trolleys on Wednesday.

Medics on duty over the weekend are said to be “distraught” and “angry” at the circumstances surrounding the teenager’s death.

While the current situation is unprecedented, the hospital has been in a state of crisis for many years.

Figures collated by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation reveal 17,640 people were left without a bed at UHL so far this year, compared to 12,108 people in 2021.

This figure is over 5,500 more than the second most overcrowded, University Hospital Cork which recorded 12,133 people waiting on trolleys this year.

Independent.ie put a series of questions to the University Limerick Hospital Group relating to the tragic events of last weekend. However, most went unanswered.

They declined to confirm how long Aoife Johnston was left on a trolley without being seen by a doctor.

The hospital also failed to outline how many nurses and doctors were on duty in the emergency department on Saturday night.

And they could not provide details on the average trolley wait time at UHL on Saturday and Sunday. A spokesperson for the UHL said: “UL Hospitals Group is unable to comment on individual cases due to our ethical and legal obligations to protect the privacy of all patients and staff in our hospitals.

“Our colleagues at HSE Public Health Mid-West are investigating a case of meningococcal disease In Clare, which concerns a teenager who died.

“We offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends of this young person.”

A source close to the Johnston family told Independent.ie they are “heartbroken beyond words” at their loss.

Hospital overcrowding has now broken an annual record with 118,622 people on trolleys so far in 2022.

Speaking about the wider situation, INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said there is “no sign of pressure easing” when compared with previous December periods.

“We have reached an overcrowding milestone today in that 2022 is officially the worst year for hospital overcrowding on record. This is not something to be celebrated.

“It is clear that there is a dearth of ambition to tackle this extremely serious problem. We commend that some hospital groups have curtailed non-urgent care and asked that people seek alternative care pathways if they can but it is clear that the HSE and the Government are not taking this issue as seriously as they should be.”

Her comments came as the HSE yesterday set up a National Crisis Management Team amid the surge in winter viruses circulating, including Covid, flu and RSV.

There are already 1,200 people in hospital with respiratory illnesses, and the HSE said an expected rapid rise in hospitalisations “is expected to bring the highest pressure on the State’s health service that has ever been seen in the coming weeks” .

Top 5 most overcrowded hospitals January 4 - December 21, 2022
1. University Hospital Limerick – 17, 640
2. Cork University Hospital – 12,133
3. Galway University Hospital – 10,012
4. Sligo University Hospital – 7,977
5. St. Vincent’s University Hospital – 7,406

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