Family pursuing civil claim over hospital death
An 85-year-old Donegal woman died from asphyxiation after becoming trapped in a side cot on her hospital bed, an inquest into her death has heard.
Sile Coyle of Ardsmore, Gortahork died on August 15th, 2008 after spending her first night in the Falcarragh Community Nursing Unit. The inquest at the Coroner's Court in Letterkenny heard that she died after her head became caught between the cot side and the top of the bed.
He family are now pursing a civil claim against the Health Service Executive.
The jury at the inquest recommended better training for nursing staff, warning stickers for all cot sides and an examination of the ratio of staff to patients.
While Mrs Coyle's family refused to comment after the inquest a legal source close to them confirmed they will be pressing ahead with a full civil action against the HSE.
Mrs Coyle entered the hospital on August 14th for a few night's respite and her family said she had been in good health when she was admitted.
Nurse Carmel O'Rourke told the hearing she was one of two nurses on duty looking after 25 patients in the 35 bed hospital. A seriously ill patient in another ward from Mrs Coyle died at 3.10am but regular checks continued on all patients, she said. She checked Mrs Coyle at between 6.30am and 6.45am and she seemed comfortable, lying on her back with two pillows on either side of her.
When she checked again at between 7.40am and 7.45am she noticed Mrs Coyle's head was jammed between the cot side and the head of the bed. Mrs Coyle could not be moved and the nurses called her colleague Mary Boyle to help. Mrs Coyle was rolled back into the bed and the two nurses began CPR.
Both nurses said they had not been trained in the use of cot sides but had read the HSE guidelines which were kept in the nurses' duty room.
Mrs Coyle's son, Eugene, left his mother to the hospital on August 14th. He said she had spent time there before when he would leave her on a Saturday for Mass, collecting her around 3pm. Before she entered the hospital his mother had been in "good enough health for her age," he said. He said he got a call at around 9am the next morning from Ms O'Rourke telling him his mother had died. He said he was shocked and when he went to the hospital he saw bruising on his mother's neck and collar bone. Sergeant Martin Rochford of Falcarragh Garda Station told the inquest he was called to the hospital at 9.20am on August 15th after the report of a death.
General Manager for the HSE in Donegal, Ciaran Doherty, said following Mrs Coyle's death a serious incident review was begun. He said a training programme has been put in place in Donegal and is being rolled out nationally.
Pathologist Dr David Barry carried out a post mortem examination on Mrs Coyle. He said there was a mark on her neck measuring 10cm by 2 cm and bruising on her arm. Dr Barry concluded that cause of death was due to acute asphyxiation, contributed to by coronary artery narrowing and bronchial pneumonia.
The six person jury found that death was due to asphyxiation after Mrs Coyle had caught her head in the side cot. They said that underlying health issues may or may not have left the victim in a weakened state that she could not release herself. A spokesman for the jury said the elderly are deserving of the highest care.
The jury also added that a programme of training for safety around side cots should continue and also asked that patient and staff ratios should be examined.
Coroner John Cannon said nobody but the family knows the sudden loss they have felt and added that it is reassuring to know Mrs Coyle's death was not in vain and that guidelines have been adopted since her death.