The family of a paraplegic Cork teenager who sustained severe spinal injuries when she fell backwards off a flat roof at a nightclub has expressed concern that her recovery will be hampered by a lack of appropriate facilities at Cork University Hospital.
Ciara O’Brien, who only completed her Leaving Certificate at Kinsale Community College earlier in the summer, was attending a beach-themed party at The Moorings nightclub in Kinsale when the tragedy occurred on Saturday, August 22.
The 18-year-old, who worked at the club but was not working on the night in question, was in a restricted area on a flat roof at the side of the building when she fell and sustained spinal injuries.
Ciara was rushed to CUH and later transferred to the National Spinal Injuries Unit at the Mater Hospital in Dublin where she has been receiving treatment for the last two weeks.
On Tuesday Ciara was transferred back to CUH. Her aunt, Maria O’Mahony, said when she arrived, there was no bed or wheelchair for Ciara and the facility was not properly prepared to receive her. Now she is worried her niece will suffer a setback if conditions at the hospital do not improve.
“When she arrived there wasn’t a bed for her. She had to wait for a poor man who was in a bed who had to be taken out of a bed just for her to get in,” said Ms O’Mahony, speaking on 96fm’s Opinion Line.
“They had to make a request for a wheelchair. There wasn’t a wheelchair there for her.”
Maria said Ciara didn’t even have the facility to brush her teeth the first night of her stay because she couldn’t get from her bed in a six-bed ward to the room’s shared sink.
Maria expressed shock that the toilet in the ward has a step up to it, something that would prove difficult for Ciara considering she has been diagnosed as paraplegic and is now a full-time wheelchair user.
“They should have had a plan. There should have been some schedule there for her to come down to and know this is where you’re going to be reassured,” Maria said.
“Ciara has serious injuries and they just weren’t geared or set up for receiving Ciara into the hospital. True, the staff were fabulous, it’s none of their fault, the facilities are just not there.”
She said Ciara needs ongoing care from medical professionals used to dealing with people who have sustained spinal injuries if she is to be ready for her transfer to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire.
Her family are afraid the lack of facilities in CUH will have an adverse effect on Ciara and will set her recovery back “completely, physically and psychologically”.
“It’s very difficult for an 18-year-old girl to be transferred from the place that she’d been in to this,” Maria said. “It was so heartbreaking leaving her.”
The HSE said CUH liaises closely with the National Spinal Unit in the Mater Hospital and the National Rehabilitation Unit in Dun Laoghaire and patients are referred accordingly to these units.
“The care pathway may be interchangeable between these three hospitals,” a spokesman said. “CUH is an exceptionally busy hospital with approximately 80 emergency admissions daily. Yesterday we were waiting on 11 ambulances to transfer patients to other facilities and this unfortunately caused a one-hour delay for a patient to secure their bed.”
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