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Thursday 22 February 2018

Stricter smoking rules after fire death in home

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

THE death of a man with intellectual problems who accidentally set himself on fire will mean new safety procedures are introduced to hospitals and care facilities.

Percy Ryan (68) died 16 days after he accidentally set his trousers alight. He was in a special smoking hut in a Health Service Executive-run care facility in Limerick at the time.

Mr Ryan, who had only been in the home for seven months, died after he sustained serious burns to 30pc of his body.

Immediately after nurses used a fire extinguisher, wet towels and basins of water to put out his blazing trousers, he told them: "I will never smoke again."

Mr Ryan, from Knockballyfooken in Pallasgreen, Co Limerick, had been transferred to the O'Connell House care facility in Newcastlewest in January 2011. He suffered from intellectual problems and had only limited mobility.

At the time of the fatal accident on July 22 last, he was being considered for a transfer to a nursing home.

A Cork coroner's inquest heard that Mr Ryan had also accidentally set himself on fire on a previous occasion.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane was told that, after this incident, Mr Ryan was not allowed a lighter and his cigarettes were limited to only a few at a time.

However, he still had his own spending money and may have been able to ask people to buy him cigarettes.

Smoking was only permitted in O'Connell House in a special smoking hut in an enclosed garden which was within line of sight of a nurse's station.

At 2.10pm on July 22, nurses Martina Sheehy and Bridget Griffin heard shouting coming from the hut and were shocked to see Mr Ryan standing up with his left trouser leg on fire.

He was alone in the hut at the time.

Ms Griffin said that, after the flames were doused, Mr Ryan was able to talk to staff.

"The first thing he said was 'I will never smoke again'. He was coherent and talking all the time," she said.

Mr Ryan was taken to Limerick Regional Hospital but, when his condition worsened, he was transferred to the burns unit at Cork University Hospital.


He underwent surgery but his condition continued to deteriorate and he died on August 7.

A post mortem found that he died from a combination of pneumonia and severe burns.

A probe -- led by senior HSE manager Irene O'Connor -- made six major recommendations in relation to smoking policy in care facilities.

The recommendations will be implemented in the mid-west region initially and then will be passed on to all HSE areas.

The new safety guidelines include: risk assessments for all smokers in care; greater supervision of smoking areas including the possible provision of smoking gowns; implementation of a risk register; all nursing breaks to be staggered and 'stop smoking' programmes to be available for all patients.

The inquest returned a verdict of accidental death.

The Ryan family declined to comment.

Irish Independent

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