Tuesday 18 June 2019

Broke hip after fall in HSE rented home

Careworker who fell after stubbing her foot on tiled kitchen floor sues the HSE for damages

Paul Deering

A careworker told the High Court in Sligo how she fell on a kitchen floor in a HSE community house breaking her right hip.

Mary McLoughlin (63) of 5 Gort Na Sí, Coolaney sued the HSE as a result of the fall at the house at Steeple View, Collooney on February 18th 2015.

The plaintiff was represented by Mr Peter Bland SC and Mr Keith O'Grady BL instructed by Mr Gerard McGovern, solicitor.

The court was told that the plaintiff was a careworker in a HSE rented house where four people were living who were previous service users of the Cloonamahon. Another four people were living next door.

The plaintiff fell in the kitchen while trying to summon help from a nurse next door after a patient was having a seizure.

She had gone downstairs at 2.30am with the intention of opening a rear patio door when she fell on the tiled floor.

Ms McLoughlin told the court last Wednesday she fell sideways on to her right side after stubbing her foot on the floor. She had been reaching for the handle of the door. She said she ended up in a foetal position.

She subsequently underwent total right hip replacement surgery at Sligo Regional Hospital. She was out of work for a year as a result and was unable to go back to her previous job.

She would not have been able to cook for the service users as before or shower them or drive the bus as she would be unable to help them on and off.

She also had difficulty in bending down and took a decision to retire in February 2016.

The accident had a huge impact on her life. She couldn't clean the oven in her house because she could not bend down and she could also not go up a ladder. She also had a fear of falling or jarring her hip.

"It feels my hip will lock if I go down on my knee and that I'd need something to grip to get back up. I have to be careful how I hoover," she said.

If she jars her hip she gets a searing pain. She has got better and does a lot of walking. She does not do any hillwalking anymore like she used to.

She also doesn't wear high heels any longer because of a fear of losing her balance and falling over.

She can drive but nor for long distances. At home she sits on a cushioned chair and has to get up and move around.

The plaintiff told Mr Bland that prior to the accident she was conscious of the floor

because of the shape of the tiles.

"They were raised and were bumpy," she said.

She had slipped on the kitchen floor before in 2007 when it was wet and had sustained a injured to her brow. No claim was made in respect of that injury.

In 206, a housekeeper had also slipped and fallen on the floor. Staff were complaining to each other over the floor and would described it "as lethal."

"When it was wet we couldn't walk on it at all and when it was dry your foot would stub the tiles," she said.

It was put to the plaintiff that she told her solicitor that she slipped and fell on the tiles.

"I can't recall all I said. I told him I slipped, tripped or stumbled, they all mean the same to me," she said.

She responded that she told him the flooring was dangerous and provided photographs of same.

It was put to the plaintiff that on admission to hospital she had told a doctor in the Emergency Department that she was running down a corridor when she had a fall.

"I never said I ran. Things can be lost in translation and they don't half listen at times," she said.

The plaintiff said she was wearing shoes with rubber soles and would only slip if the tiles were wet. She had stubbed her foot.

Dr Mark Jordan, consulting engineer, told the court he carried out an inspection of the floor and described the tiles as cushioned and imperfectly level. The plateau descends towards the edge so that when two tiles meet there were various hollows.

Witness said the plaintiff had hit the floor so hard she bounced off it and this was entirely consistent with a sudden stop.

"She told me she wasn't running but walking briskly to the door with a phone in her hand and reaching for the door," he said.

Dr Jordan said it was clear her foot got stuck to the floor rather than there being insufficient grip. He had a look at the shoes the plaintiff was wearing on the day.

Witness insisted that the tiles were a trip hazard.

In reply to Mr Justice Bernard Barton, Dr Jordan said stubbing was the toe actually stopping dead. The plaintiff had used the word stuck to him,.

"Her foot stopping dead on the floor is what she described to me and she just capsized on the floor.

"It was a combination of a very good grip and the undulations in the tiled floor," he said.

Witness also told Judge Barton that the house was not purpose built. It was a dwelling house not built as a healthcare facility.

"It was a standard dwelling house of fairly modern construction," said Dr Jordan.

Mary Watters, a Clinical Nurse Manager with the HSE said she was looking after five houses in the community with 45 staff and 33 service users.

The move of service users from Cloonamahon to Steeple View in Collooney had worked out successfully she said.

It wasn't a clinical situation. There was 24 hour nursing care there but it was not strictly a clinical area, she said. She was manager since 2006.

Questioned in relation to the floor, the witness said it would be slippy if it was wet.

"That was always recognised and we had a mat at the back door," she said. She didn't recall an issue with the floor if it wasn't wet.

Witness agreed with Mr Bland that the plaintiff was an excellent, truthful employee.

Witness understood the plaintiff was going for the phone in order to call the house next door to get a nurse as she needed assistance. Ms Watters said the HSE did not do anything with the floor when they began renting the house.

"Yes, we took it as we found it," she said.

She wasn't aware of a safety risk assessment having been carried out on the house by the HSE. Witness said she also wasn't aware of deviations in the floor.

At the conclusion of the witness's evidence, Mr Justice Barton said he was unable to sit last Thursday or Friday to hear the remainder of the case but that he would ensure an early resumption date in Dublin on a Monday and the parties would be notified. The case was then adjourned.

Sligo Champion