Thursday 17 January 2019

'Medics must own up sooner if errors made'

A young girl lost out on vital therapy for over a decade because of the refusal of a doctor and the HSE to admit mistakes had been made, writes Alan O'Keeffe

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Alan O'Keeffe

Parents whose daughter was severely disabled by injuries at birth, said she suffered further because health authorities and a consultant refused to promptly admit mistakes.

Kevin and Mary Conroy said their daughter Roisin would have benefited from crucial therapy in her early years if it was admitted her cerebral palsy was caused by errors made at the time of her birth.

"A prompt admission and payment would have enabled us to pay for therapies she needed," said Mr Conroy (56).

But Roisin was 12 years old before the Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise and Dr John Corristine accepted responsibility in 2013 for the failures in her care and a financial settlement agreed for her ongoing care.

"When she was younger she was using a walker and a sippy cup. But she lost those abilities because she did not have access to sufficient specialist therapy," said her father.

"I'm still so angry about what happened to my beautiful daughter," he said.

The couple, who live in Portlaoise, have now built a specially-adapted house for their wheelchair-bound daughter from some of the proceeds of €11.6m they received in a final settlement to provide lifetime specialist care for Roisin.

"Roisin's life expectancy has now increased by six years because of the therapies she has received over the past 18 months," he said last week.

The vast majority of children with cerebral palsy in Ireland do not receive sufficient specialist therapies to protect and develop their abilities, he said.

Kevin and Mary, who have two younger children, have devoted their lives to the full-time care of Roisin. They said the hospital and Dr Corristine, the consultant obstetrician, should have informed them promptly that it was the errors in her care that caused Roisin's disability.

Several years after the birth, they decided to contact solicitor Michael Boylan in a bid to find out if there had been failings in Mary's care.

It took up to 10 months for all records to be produced to be examined by an expert.

The medical expert concluded the injuries at birth should not have happened.

But representatives for the hospital authorities and the consultant refused to accept responsibility for a further two years - until five weeks before the case was scheduled for court - he said.

A settlement was reached and an interim payment was agreed. An apology from the Health Service Executive and Dr Corristine was read out in court in 2013.

The Conroys' solicitor, Michael Boylan, declared after the settlement there should be a legal duty of candour for health care professionals which would prevent further years, and in this case more than a decade, of hardship and extra trauma.

Kevin Conroy said he and Mary endured a lot of anxiety while the legal efforts were in progress. He said he was very worried that if they lost their case they might lose their home to pay the legal costs of the hospital and consultant.

There needs to be a system whereby parents of children are not made to launch long drawn-out legal battles to get justice and the treatments their children need. Prompt disclosure by health authorities would allow vital therapies to begin as early as possible so that potential developmental stages are not missed, he said.

He said: "It's just not right that so many lives were destroyed."

Mary Conroy said Roisin is "a great character" who has brought a lot of happiness to the family.

They believe all children with cerebral palsy in Ireland should receive sufficient physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy in the crucial early years of their lives, regardless of how their disabilities happened to manifest.

He said that Roisin is now receiving training to use her eyes to operate a computer to communicate with the family.

He said it was "heart-breaking" to see Roisin confined to her wheelchair as she watches her younger sister and brother leaving the house every day to take part in activities she will never engage in.

Fighting back his tears, he said: "It's terrible she will never get to do all the things she should be doing growing up and that she will never get to marry.

"I'll never get the chance to walk her down the aisle."

Sunday Independent

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