Two inquests into Covid deaths scheduled to open in Cork

Two women, both in their 80s, were taken to CUH after sustaining falls and tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival, even though neither had shown symptoms previously, according to family members
Two inquests into Covid deaths scheduled to open in Cork

Two women in their 80s tested positive for Covid-19 on presentation to Cork University Hospital though neither had shown any symptoms, according to family members.

Two inquests into Covid-19 deaths are scheduled to open in Cork on Thursday.

The inquests will hear evidence of two cases concerning elderly women who sustained a fall, one at home, the other in a nursing home. The two women, both aged in their 80s, each suffered a broken hip in separate falls on separate dates last January.

Both women were taken to hospital for treatment. Upon presentation at Cork University Hospital (CUH), both tested positive for Covid-19, though neither had shown any symptoms, according to family members.

Sustained a fall

These two deaths are going to inquest because each of the women sustained a fall in the lead-up to their death.

Teresa McDonnell, 85, from Ballycastle, Co Mayo, had moved to Co Cork to live next door to relatives. She was a non-smoker, rarely drank alcohol and walked with a stick. 

Mrs McDonnell arrived at CUH on January 12 last after she sustained a fall while moving from one chair to another at home. She had multiple comorbidities including osteoporosis, hypertension, high cholesterol, congestive cardiac failure and cognitive impairment. 

Mrs McDonnell tested positive for Covid-19 on admission to CUH, though she had shown no symptoms of the disease.

She had surgery to her hip on January 14 and received oxygen, however, her condition deteriorated. She developed Covid-19 related pneumonia and on January 23 she suffered a respiratory arrest and died.

On January 16, an 89-year-old woman presented at CUH following an unwitnessed fall in a nursing home. Her family expressed a preference that her name not be used. The woman was unable to weight bear following the fall and was found on the nursing home floor.

She was swabbed for Covid-19 on arrival at CUH and tested positive.

The woman had a background of dementia, duodenal ulcer, recurrent falls, thyroidectomy and gallstones. She was diagnosed with a fractured hip. She received surgery to her hip on January 18. 

On the same day, she developed an abnormal heart rhythm. Her condition deteriorated and she required oxygen on January 23. The woman continued to deteriorate due to Covid-19 pneumonia and she died on January 27.

Postmortems were not performed

Postmortems were not performed in either case due to infection risk. A review of clinical notes was conducted in place of autopsy.

Cork City coroner Philip Comyn will open and adjourn these inquests on Thursday, a process that involves taking evidence of identification and cause of death only.

Relatives will be offered the option of a full inquest, likely to be delayed until later in the year, or a documentary inquest, in which evidence is read with the consent of the immediate next-of-kin. 

Dates for inquests, either full or documentary, will then be set according to relatives’ preferences and availability and the coroner will return a verdict upon hearing the evidence associated with each case.

A coroner can direct an inquest into a Covid-19 death based on individual circumstances and where there is a concern in relation to a person who became infected with the illness. 

Coroner Pat O’Connor has opened two such inquests in Co Mayo – an inquest into the death of 17-year-old Ballyhaunis student Sally Maaz, and John Carolan, 79, from Ballina. Both died after contracting the virus at Mayo University Hospital and these inquests are currently adjourned for mention on June 21.

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