Saturday 7 December 2019

Probe into death of artist's wife in hospital toilet

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

AN internal hospital review is under way into the circumstances surrounding the death of the wife of artist Robert Ballagh, it was confirmed last night.

Mr Ballagh (68) spoke of his grief and loneliness yesterday at the loss of his wife Betty five months ago who, he said, died in a toilet in St Joseph's Hospital in Raheny in Dublin .

He described how she had earlier spent 16 hours in "considerable discomfort" on a chair in the emergency department of Beaumont Hospital after she felt ill with a stomach complaint.

"How have we ended up with a health system that treats people so badly?"he asked.

A spokesman for Beaumont Hospital said last night it had expressed its regret and extended sympathies to Mr Ballagh on the death of his wife.

"We informed him then that the hospital was conducting a review of her care. This review is currently in progress and we will communicate directly with Mr Ballagh on these matters," the spokesman added.

Mr Ballagh, who was interviewed on RTE's John Murray show, said he still did not know the cause of his beloved wife's death.


St Joseph's Hospital, which provides medical and inpatient surgical care, is under the management of Beaumont Hospital.

Betty was admitted to Beaumont but after a week she was discharged despite being in a very weak state. The next day she was in extreme discomfort and was admitted to St Joseph's in Raheny.

Mr Ballagh said she was discovered dead by staff in a toilet during the night.

The family is still waiting for a coroner's report on the cause of death but a backlog of post-mortems at the State laboratory currently means that some tissue samples have to be sent to the United States for analysis.

"We need to make the system more humane. Our entire hospital system is based on queues," Mr Ballagh added.

He faced more heartache when he had to sign a form giving permission for a post mortem and had to go to the hospital to identify the body with two gardai present.

The gardai were delayed and he was left sitting with his wife's body for over an hour-and-a-half. "I do not think anyone should be put through this,"he said.

His wife was just 18 years old when they married and they were together for 45 years. The couple had two children.

Irish Independent

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