The Health Service Executive (HSE) has refuted claims that staff at Ennis General Hospital withheld medical attention from a gravely ill father of 10 until gardaí were first called to the scene.
At 3.15am on Wednesday, September 22, 53-year-old Thomas ‘Brother’ Keenan was rushed by car, driven by his wife, to Ennis General Hospital after he complained of chest pains at his home in Clarecastle. Mr Keenan had lost consciousness before reaching the hospital.
On arrival at the hospital, Mr Keenan’s wife, Anne, attempted to alert staff by knocking on the hospital door. When staff went to treat Mr Keenan an ambulance had already been alerted by hospital personnel and Mr Keenan was then transferred to the ambulance within the grounds of the hospital for treatment. He passed away in the back of the ambulance.
Clare’s county hospital does not provide an accident and emergency service between 8pm and 8am. However, the HSE has a strict protocol for dealing with patients with serious medical issues who arrive at the facility after hours.
Mr Keenan’s family has criticised the HSE for failing to provide adequate care for him and claimed attention was only received after gardaí had been called to the hospital. The HSE has claimed, however, that medical intervention had almost concluded by the time gardaí arrived at the scene.
The HSE has said: “Medical help was promptly provided to Mr Keenan and attempted resuscitation was well underway before any gardaí were even called to the scene. In fact, medical intervention had continued for approximately 45 minutes and it was nearing an end when the gardaí were called in response to an unruly group who had gathered at the hospital. When the gardaí arrived there were two nurses, three doctors and four ambulance personnel dealing with the situation, all being co-ordinated by the assistant director of nursing.”
It is also understood no call was made to the ambulance service by the family before Mr Keenan left his home. It is believed that if a call had been made, an ambulance could have met the car while on its way from Clarecastle or could have been waiting for it when it arrived at the hospital. It is understood, however, that a family member did make a call to the 999 emergency service at 3.17am from the grounds of Ennis General Hospital.
The Keenan family has questioned why gardaí were called to the hospital in the first place. The HSE said gardaí were notified after a large number of people arrived at the hospital and had become unruly. It is understood some people had been pounding on the ambulance door while staff tried to resuscitate Mr Keenan.
“In the interest of patient and staff safety, the acting director of nursing on night duty notified gardaí that a large number of family members had started congregating at the front of the hospital and were becoming very loud and unruly. Gardaí were called as would be normal for any large group of people behaving in such a manner,” the HSE has said.
The spokesman added: “The calling of the gardaí was not part of the medical response and they were not called until well after the appropriate medical, nursing and ambulance staff were at the scene attending to Mr Keenan... The fact that they were members of the Travelling community was irrelevant. Any suggestion that our staff would discriminate against anyone because of their membership of a particular community or class is untrue and defamatory.
“As the patient had collapsed in the car it was not advisable to move him into the hospital as the priority was to attempt resuscitation. This was administered in the car by the nurse and the on call doctor until the ambulance arrived when paramedics took over resuscitation.
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