'Very urgent' A&E patient first seen by doctor when found dead on trolley

University Hospital Limerick

By Jimmy Woulfe, Irish Examiner mid-west correspondent

A patient deemed to be a "very urgent" case after being rushed to an overcrowded emergency department was not seen by a doctor until he was found dead on a trolley over three hours after he was admitted, an inquest has heard.

Darragh Curley, aged 33, of 152 Curragh Birin, Castletroy, Limerick, had taken an overdose of tablets. A consultant told an inquest in Limerick yesterday they may have been able to save him had they proper facilities at the A&E of the Mid-West Regional Hospital (now University Hospital Limerick).

Mr Curley was admitted to the A&E at 12.52am on July 8, 2013. He was triaged by a nurse at 1.43am and his condition was such that he was given a “very urgent” category 2 status.

Patients in this category are put into special cubicles for examination by a doctor within 10 minutes in what is called a ‘stepdown’ area.

However, as all four cubicles were full on what was described as “an incredibly busy night”, he was placed on a trolley.

At 2.30am he was seen by a nurse who inserted an intravenous drip and took bloods from him. He was found unresponsive on a trolley at 4.30am and efforts failed to revive him. He was pronounced dead at 4.42am.

Pathologist Dr PN Faul said Mr Curley died from heart failure due the combined toxic effects of drugs and alcohol.

Mr Curley’s partner, Pam Quinn, who called an ambulance to their home told the inquest: “I think the hospital could have done more to save Darragh on the night.”

An ambulance medical technician said Mr Curley was able to walk from the ambulance into A&E when they arrived at the hospital at 12.52am.

Ms Quinn said the ambulance personnel told her she had saved his life by calling them.

At the hospital, nurses told her to go home and get some sleep as Darragh would be fine and would be home in the morning. Hours later gardaí called to their home and told her Darragh had died.

Geraldine O’Riordan, nursing manager of A&E on the night, said they are so busy that at times they have to ‘juggle’ category 2 very urgent cases between the stepdown cubicles and trolleys.

A&E consultant Gareth Quinn, who was on duty that night, said: “The moment of deterioration may have been more readily appreciated and resuscitation commenced immediately had it been possible to observe him on a cardiac monitor in an appropriate A&E department cubicle.”

Coroner, Dr Tony Casey recorded an “open verdict”.


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