Family of cancer patient who fell twice in St Vincent's Hospital settle case

Ms Walsh’s son Stephen said: “This has been a long and difficult struggle. We started our legal case four years ago and it was resolved last week."
Family of cancer patient who fell twice in St Vincent's Hospital settle case

Stephen Walsh had sued on behalf of his family St Vincent’s Healthcare Group trading as St Vincent’s University Hospital, Elm Park, Merrion Road, Dublin for nervous shock as a result of his mother’s death. File picture: Colin Keegan

The family of a 60-year-old woman who was recovering from surgery at St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, but fell twice and later died has settled a High Court action.

Mother of six Anne Walsh, counsel Doireann O’Mahony BL told the court, had been recovering from cancer surgery when she suffered the falls in hospital. After the second fall, Counsel said, Ms Walsh “rapidly deteriorated and was seriously unwell” and on Christmas Eve 2015 was transferred to the hospital ICU.

The Walsh family, Counsel said, are heartbroken that Ms Walsh who was also a grandmother spent her last Christmas critically ill in ICU and Counsel said “they have not had a Christmas since.” 

Counsel said Ms Walsh’s system was overwhelmed and by the time on January 5, 2016, it was thought to evacuate a haematoma which had been identified it was, Ms O’Mahony said, “too little too late and sadly and tragically Ms Walsh succumbed and died on January 7, 2016.” The settlement, the terms of which are confidential, is without an admission of liability and was reached after mediation, Mr Justice Paul Coffey was told.

Outside court Ms Walsh’s son Stephen said the family had struggled to come to terms with the circumstances of their mother’s death.

“This has been a long and difficult struggle. We started our legal case four years ago and it was resolved last week. While the hospital has not admitted liability, we are satisfied that from the reports of the many experts we received we now understand the events of the last days of our mother’s life.” 

Standing with his sister Angela and his solicitor Philip Coffey he added: “We will remember as always our dear mother, partner, grandmother and sister this Christmas. Our mother will forever be loved and cherished.” Stephen Walsh, Pearse Avenue, Sallynoggin, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, had sued on behalf of his family St Vincent’s Healthcare Group trading as St Vincent’s University Hospital, Elm Park, Merrion Road, Dublin for nervous shock as a result of his mother’s death.

The claims against the hospital

It was claimed there was an alleged failure to take account of the fact that Ms Walsh was at risk of falls in the context of her condition.

Ms Walsh suffered two falls on December 22 and 23, 2015, while a patient of the hospital. She had been recovering from successful liver resection surgery at the time. It was claimed there was an alleged failure to conduct a risk assessment and ensure safeguards were put in place so as to prevent falls.

Ms Walsh had been making a steady recovery prior to her first fall on December 22 when she fell backwards and hit her head and back. It was claimed she suffered a rectus sheath haematoma consequent to the first fall. 

A day later she sustained a second fall when she collapsed and the haematoma diagnosis was made. It was claimed there was an alleged delay on the part of the hospital in responding to the suspected haematoma and arranging for imaging investigations. 

Ms Walsh’s condition continued to deteriorate. Ms Walsh died on January 7, 2016.

It was claimed there was an alleged failure to take any or any adequate account of the fact that Ms Walsh was at risk of falls and an alleged failure to put in place any or any adequate safeguards after the first fall. All the claims were denied and the hospital claimed the falls did not cause Ms Walsh’s death.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Paul Coffey conveyed his deepest sympathy to the Walsh family.

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