Questioning whether it would be safer for ill or injured people to stay at home rather than go to the hospital, Dublin County coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty said Tallaght Hospital “sounds like a very dangerous place to be for anybody, let alone a sick patient”.
Mr Geraghty was speaking at the inquest into the death of Thomas Walsh in response to comments made by Dr James Gray about conditions in the hospital.
Mr Walsh, 65, of Elmcastle Park, Kilnamanagh, Tallaght, died at the hospital on March 2. He had been admitted the previous day with severe ankle pain and was in a “virtual ward” when he died.
A virtual ward is another name for hospital corridors and alcoves where patients are left on trolleys while they are waiting for a bed in a ward, the inquest heard.
Dr James Gray, a consultant in emergency medicine at Tallaght, said there were “appallingly poor standards of sanitation” with no dedicated toilet or sink on the corridors.
“This is not the first cardiac arrest of a virtual ward patient… and at some point in the future there may well be another cardiac arrest on the virtual ward if overcrowding continues.”
Dr Gray said Mr Walsh should have been more closely monitored, adding that “a detailed nursing plan was not in place for Mr Walsh and this might have uncovered he was on CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)”.
Dr Michael Crockett a second-year senior house officer, told the inquest earlier that at no stage was the hospital informed Mr Walsh used CPAP for sleep apnea.
While awaiting a bed in a ward, Mr Walsh’s condition deteriorated and he was pronounced dead shortly after 4am.
A postmortem examination supervised by consultant histopathologist Dr Michael Jeffers found that Mr Walsh died of cardiac arrhythmia secondary to bronchopneumonia.
Extending his sympathies to the family, Dr Geraghty recorded an open verdict.
He said that had it just been a cardiac arrhythmia he would have recorded a verdict of death by natural causes, and that had a lack of oxygen caused the cardiac event he would have given a verdict of medical misadventure, but because “we can’t be certain either way”, an open verdict was being recorded.
Speaking after the inquest, Kay Walsh, the wife of the deceased, said she was disappointed with the verdict.