Blind Limerick garda settles in case against HSE after claims diagnosis was delayed

Leader Reporter

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Leader Reporter

A GARDA sergeant has settled a legal action against the HSE and a Limerick eye specialist over their alleged failure to diagnose an infection in time to prevent him from going blind.

A GARDA sergeant has settled a legal action against the HSE and a Limerick eye specialist over their alleged failure to diagnose an infection in time to prevent him from going blind.

Counsel for Sgt Niall Fitzpatrick, formerly of Roxboro Garda Station, told the High Court that his client was about to be promoted to head of the divisional drug unit in Henry Street when he contracted an infection of the cornea known as acanthamoeba keratitis.

Sgt Fitzpatrick, a 47-year-old father-of-two from Boher, County Limerick, sued the HSE and consultant Raymond Niland, both of whom denied the claims.

On the first day of the case, Liam Reidy SC, for Sgt Fitzpatrick, said his client had first sought help for problems with his sight in June 2005 and that his condition had rapidly deteriorated over the following three months.

On June 12, Sgt Fitzpatrick and his wife Michelle, a nurse at St John’s Hospital, were driving back from a family trip to County Clare when he got “a blinding pain” in his eye. Michelle Fitzpatrick drove her husband to A&E at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital where he was referred to the eye department.

The sergeant was seen on 11 occasions from this first meeting with an ophthalmic registrar at the Dooradoyle hospital on June 12 until his admission there on September 8, 2005.

In that time, medical staff had failed to take “the most preliminary step towards diagnosing him” by taking a swab of his eye, Mr Reidy said.

Sgt Fitzpatrick was being treated for viral keratitis when it later emerged the correct diagnosis was one of acanthamoeba keratitis.

This was a condition associated with the wearing of contact lenses and one which could be treated if an early diagnosis was made, Mr Reidy said.

On Sgt Fitzpatrick’s admission to hospital on September 8, Mr Niland asked two colleagues to review the case and a diagnosis of acanthamoeba keratitis was made.

The court heard that Sgt Fitzpatrick had since sought treatment in the UK and the United States but today he has no useful sight.

On the second day of the hearing, Ms Justice Mary Irvine was told by Mr Reidy that the case had been settled and proceedings against Mr Niland and the HSE could be struck out. No monetary details of the settlements involved were disclosed.