Consultants at a private hospital must ensure adequate cover in their absence after a patient died nine days after surgery to remove varicose veins.
Karen McCabe, aged 46, of Bewley Drive, Lucan, Co Dublin, underwent a procedure to remove varicose veins at the Bon Secours Hospital in Dublin on August 6, 2014. Her vascular surgeon, Austin Leahy went to his Kerry holiday home two days later. On August 15, Ms McCabe died due to a blood clot in the lung believed to have originated in the lower leg.
An inquest into her death heard she presented at Beaumont Hospital on August 14 and died the next day. She had contacted the Bon Secours three days before her death complaining of pain in her knee and difficulty walking.
A resumed inquest at Dublin Coroner’s Court heard from Bon Secours senior house officer (SHO) Kingsley Opputeh, who wanted to admit the patient and carry out a scan on August 13, but only Prof Leahy could authorise Ms McCabe’s admittance to the Bon Secours. Prof Leahy had left instructions that he should be contacted via text if he was needed but network coverage in the area was unreliable, the court heard.
He noticed a missed call from a general Bon Secours number and did not reply because it was not a specific number, the court heard.
Bon Secours hospital manager Mike Tonery confirmed it was procedure that consultants must take responsibility for admitting patients but said “never again” would an SHO be prevented from admitting a patient because a consultant was not available.
Mr Tonery said that, under measures introduced in the wake of Ms McCabe’s death, the SHO’s first option was to contact the primary consultant, followed by the second consultant and, failing that, could refer patients to a recently opened medical assessment unit within the hospital that operates within office hours.
“Out of hours, all other options exhausted, they should refer to accident and emergency at Beaumont,” he said.
Coroner Brian Farrell returned a verdict of medical misadventure and endorsed the new arrangements at the Bon Secours.
After the inquest, the family of Mrs McCabe’s issued a statement:
“The family is comforted by the fact that learnings have occurred in the Bon Secours hospital, and that new cover arrangements when consultants are unavailable have been put in place. Unfortunately for Karen’s family, nothing can bring her back.”
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