Cork man who sued GP and HSE following sudden death of his wife settles action

By Ann O'Loughlin

A man who sued a Cork GP and the HSE over the death of his wife,just a day after a blood test showed she had low levels of potassium has settled his High Court action for €850,000.

Donal O'Sullivan's counsel Dr John O'Mahony SC told the High Court very low levels of potassium were "a recipe for disaster" particularly to cardio function and the mother of four Maureen O'Sullivan should have immediately gone to hospital.

The GP, Dr Therese Crotty, Main Street, Ballincollig, Co Cork and the HSE in a letter read to the High Court apologised unreservedly for the part they played in the events leading up to Mrs O'Sullivan's death seven years ago.

The letter to the O'Sullivan family signed by Dr Crotty and a representative of the HSE said:

"I deeply regret the tragic circumstances that led to the death of your wife,mother and sister Mrs Maureen O'Sullivan . I apologise unreservedly for the part I played in the events leading up to her death.

It added:" I am acutely conscious of the pain and suffering which this has caused to you and all and to the other family members and I am so sorry for your terrible loss."

It said the apology was also on behalf of the HSE in relation to the causation of the sad death of Mrs O'Sullivan

Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told liability in the case was admitted in the last few weeks.

Mrs O'Sullivan's widower Donal O'Sullivan, Lower Belmont, Crookstown, Co Cork had sued GP Therese Crotty, Main Street, Ballincollig, Co Cork and the HSE over the death of his wife Maureen, who was in her fifties,on November 8, 2011.

On November 4, 2011 Mrs O'Sullivan had attended at GP Therese Crotty complaining of palpitations and a blood test was taken which was sent for analysis to the laboratory at Cork University Hospital.

On November 7 2011 the results of the blood test which indicated severe hypokalaemia , a low level of potassium was telephoned to the GP's surgery.

It was claimed the GP failed to arrange to admit Mrs O'Sullivan immediately to hospital upon learning she suffered severe hypokalaemia and failed to advise Mrs O'Sullivan to attend hospital immediately.

It was claimed against the HSE there was a failure to adequately communicate the significance of the abnormal blood test results to the GP and a failure to have in place or to implement appropriate systems for communicating blood test results to GPs.

It was further claimed the HSE had relied on a clerical officer to communicate the test results and there was a failure to highlight in the communication of the results to the GP's surgery that they required urgent clinical attention

Counsel for the O'Sullivans Dr John O'Mahony SC said the result of the blood test was conveyed by telephone to the GP's surgery. The day after the phone call Mrs O'Sullivan went to her GP . She was very unwell, Counsel said and she succumbed in a very short period of time.

He said their case against the GP was that low levels of potassium should have been a warning sign and Mrs O'Sullivan should have gone to hospital immediately once the results were known on November 7. He said the GP's case was that the call came in to the surgery rather than directly to the GP.

The case against the HSE, Counsel said was there should be "a bullet proof means of communicating" directly to a doctor not just to the surgery.

Approving the €850,00 settlement Mr Justice Kevin Cross sympathised with the O'Sullivan family on their sad loss.

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