From The Irish Independent on Friday 27 October 2006:
"Crucial bed was available for patient who died from heavily bleeding ulcer
The grieving family of the late Patrick Joseph Walsh, who bled to death in Monaghan General Hospital after attempts to transfer him to three other hospitals for emergency surgery failed, are sueing the State for damages.
It is understood that the action has been served on the State in recent days.
The landmark legal action against the State and the Health Services Executive is not likely to come before the courts until next year after the action for damages was lodged in the High Court this week.
Mr Walsh, a retired farmer from Aghafad, Killanny, Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, had been admitted to Monaghan General Hospital with a bleeding ulcer on October 14, 2005, but died the next morning.
Staff in the hospital failed in their bids to transfer him to three other hospitals – Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda, Cavan General Hospital and Beaumont in Dublin – for emergency surgery.
Monaghan Hospital had sought the transfer because it was not permitted to carry out such surgery.
The claim, believed to be the first of its kind to be brought here under the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003, alleges a series of breaches of the 75-year-old pensioner’s rights under that Act. The claim is also brought under the Civil Liability Act.
The action is being brought by Pat Joe’s son, Patrick, of Drumconrath Road, Carrickmacross; the deceased’s three sisters, Phyllis Hughes (72), of Long Island, New York, Anne Murray (80), Navan Road, Dubli, and Mary Callan (74), Carrickmacross; and brother Edward Walsh, Castlebellingham, Co Louth.
The defendants are the HSE, the Minister for Health and Children, Ireland and the Attorney General.
Mr Walsh’s family allege there was a failure to take appropriate steps to safeguard his life, to ensure he did not suffer inhuman and degrading treatment while in the care of the State authorities and to ensure his personal dignity and bodily integrity.
Those failures clearly breached various provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, the family alleges.
Mr Walsh was in need of a critical intensive care (ICU) bed, such beds were available in nearby hospitals and the failure to get one of those for Mr Walsh breached his Convention rights, it is alleged.
Because of “serious systems failures”, Mr Walsh was “exposed to a system and standard of health care which endangered his life and exposed him to a serious, forseeable and avoidable risk to his life”, it is also claimed.
Patrick Walsh, son of the deceased, claims that, as a result of observing his father immediately before and at the time of death, and because of the circumstances surrounding his death, he had suffered a foreseeable shock, abnormal grieving process and psychiatric and/or psychological injury.
The report of an independent inquiry into Mr Walsh’s death, published by the HSE last month, found that while Mr Walsh’s death may have been inevitable it was “avoidable in the circumstances in which it occurred”.
The report also found that one intensive care bed was available in Drogheda and two were available in Cavan and that Mr Walsh could have been transferred to these.
The report criticised a number of doctors involved in Mr Walsh’s care and also criticised the management of health services in the North East.
It referred to a “sustained failure” of management to resolve issues such as interpersonal difficulties between consultants in the region. It said the events surrounding Mr Walsh’s death were “not primarily as a result of individual clinician failures but as a consequence of dysfunctional processes, relationships and management structures”.
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31 October 2006