A FORMER nurse at University Hospital Limerick claimed this week that her husband died in “inhumane, undignified and substandard conditions” in the hospital.
And so incensed was Bridie Kelly O’Shaughnessy, 68, from Adare, that she sent a letter to Minister for Health Leo Varadkar detailing the conditions her husband, Paddy, was exposed to in September, when he died in what she described as “smelly battlefield conditions”.
The letter states that the health system Minister Varadkar is responsible for “put the nail in my husband’s coffin” and that he died a “victim of the trolley wars.
“God may well have taken my husband that day, but your policies caused total system failure to provide critical observation after a seizure or even give simple pain relief. My treasured husband died in inhumane, undignified, substandard conditions on your watch,” the letter said.
Fianna Fáil spokesperson for justice and equality Deputy Niall Collins said that he has since addressed the issue with the Minister, saying that “lives are at risk. “This highlights the level of chaos in the health service in Limerick. The Minister really needs to get a grip with the situation, rather than being commentator. He needs to realise that he is in charge, and he needs to sort it out.”
Ms Kelly O’Shaughnessy was born in Limerick city and grew up in Iowa. She told the Limerick Leader that she and Paddy were distant relations and had been “lifelong friends” since he helped her get a job at the hospital, in her 20s.
After 12 years’ in Dooradoyle, she moved to San Francisco, where she was a critical care nurse for 30 years, and moved back to Ireland, three years ago.
The couple would be celebrating their third year anniversary at Christmas time.
On September 23, Paddy was taken by a “flawless” ambulance crew to UHL, after suffering a first-time seizure.
On that day, UHL had the third highest overcrowding rate in the country, with 34 people being treated on trolleys.
Mr O’Shaughnessy, who grew up in Pallaskenry and worked for Shannon [Shell] Oil for 47 years, was made a “critical case requiring urgent care”, the letter stated.
Ms Kelly O’Shaughnessy wrote that Paddy was then sent to a busy corridor full of trolleys, and was unable to access “an urgently needed bathroom”.
She stated that she repeatedly requested for a scan and a neuro consultant, and they were told that he would receive a scan and that he would be “airlifted if deemed in need of treatment”.
He was then “squeezed out of his slot and shakily manoeuvred through a sea of patients and families in the corridor to a scan”, which the house staff thought to be “not too bad”.
The letter said that he was placed in an “unobserved, overstimulating corridor environment.
“We were in hell and I clutched his hand and his trolley and refused to leave and Paddy said ‘My wife’,” – his last words. Paddy seized again ...and again .. till a major one hit, and my husband was wheeled into a resuscitation room and placed on life support unconscious.
“I stayed by his side three days in ICU [intensive care unit] where excellent supportive care kept him quietly comfortable while his body shut down.”
Bridie was told that Paddy would not survive. He died of a critical subarachnoid haemorrhage” on September 26. She said in the letter that closing the A&E in Nenagh and Ennis has “overwhelmed” Limerick. “Lives are dangling every day in the trolley wars and the buck stops with you,” she wrote.
Following the death of Paddy’s wife in 2010, the couple renewed their friendship while he visited California.
“Within a few months, we fell in love, and we decided that we were going to live together. I retired, sold my Victorian mansion in San Francisco, packed all my belongings and three my pugs, married him in City Hall, and came home. I think we were destined to be together. Paddy brought me home,” she told the Limerick Leader.
She said that they “got only two wonderful years retired in lovely Adare.
“On our wedding day we saw many gay couples happily getting married and we were so proud and enlightened Ireland shared this privilege - with your own brave support. Paddy hoped you would be as lucky as we were to find the perfect partner.”
She added working for the Regional was “the best job she ever had”.
The UL Hospitals Group offered its condolences to the O’Shaughnessy family, and said they are investigating the issues which have been “taken very seriously”.
It said that the group “has long acknowledged that the emergency department at UHL is too small for current activity and is no longer fit for purpose”, and that site works are under way for the new emergency department.