Dead man lay in emergency department 'for four to five hours', inquest hears

Dead man lay in emergency department 'for four to five hours', inquest hears
Brian Hamilton. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

A 40-year-old man was found unresponsive in a Dublin emergency department after entering 12 hours earlier.

Brian Hamilton was found in a collapsed state at Tallaght Hospital A&E at 3pm on April 14, 2018.

An Asian couple noticed the man slumped over while seated in the waiting area and alerted a nurse.

The nurse checked the patient and found him unresponsive. Staff conducted CPR but Mr Hamilton was pronounced dead at 3.51pm.

The man had spoken with security guard Robert Armstrong when he arrived at the hospital at 2.45am that morning. The inquest heard he was carrying a backpack and a sleeping bag.

“He asked me what time the Luas came back into service. Another patient interrupted us. He walked off in the direction of A&E,” Mr Armstrong said.

He watched the man approach the reception desk at A&E at 3.51am.

There was no one at the reception desk and CCTV footage showed that Mr Hamilton spent around 30 seconds at the desk but did not interact with anyone.

CCTV footage showed him take a seat in the waiting area, use the bathroom and return to a different spot in the waiting area before the alarm is raised several hours later.

Michael Hamilton, brother of the deceased, got a call from his sister at 3.30pm saying Brian was hospital. They family were told attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.

“When I saw Brian I was shocked. It was clear he had been dead for four to five hours as rigor mortis had set in. I was sure of this as I am a butcher by trade,” Mr Hamilton said.

Members of the Hamilton family during the Coroners Court inquest. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Members of the Hamilton family during the Coroners Court inquest. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

His sister Maria Eustace said Brian was the second youngest in the family and had been badly affected by the loss of his parents.

“When Dad died in 2005 he took it really bad. He was also very close to Mam. She had breast cancer and Brian was always there for her. He took her death badly, it affected him terribly,” she said.

Emergency department nurse Jonathan Joaquin was alerted by a couple who became concerned for the man.

“They asked me to check the man sitting there and I did. I tried to rouse him, he didn’t answer me, there was no response and I went inside to get help.”

“He was seated on the bench, he was stooped forward, his face was on his backpack. I didn’t see any signs of life,” Mr Joaquin said.

The nurse said that people often entered the emergency department for shelter.

“These people were being asked to register so that we can link them to the proper services they need to access,” Mr Joaquin said.

The coroner asked how regularly this happened and if people entered the A&E every night for shelter and the nurse agreed that they did.

Barrister for the family Moira Flahive asked if there was any protocol in place to identify individuals taking shelter that had not registered but the nurse was unable to answer.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane adjourned the inquest to hear from two additional witnesses including the hospital’s Head of Security and a hospital representative to outline what changes have been implemented since Mr Hamilton's death.

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