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Clare coroner Isobel O'Dea told the family it was very important they brought up the issues they did at the inquest. Photograph by John Kelly.

Bereaved Clare family question HSE procedures at inquest

A COUNTY Clare family is seeking answers from the HSE concerning the care it provided to a man who took his own life hours after being released from hospital, writes Gordon Deegan.

An inquest in Ennis has heard that on the afternoon of December 17 last, the body of the 56-year-old farmer was found by neighbours in the shed on his lands between Miltown Malbay and Lahinch.

The grim discovery was made only hours after the man was released from Ennis Hospital at around 4am.

The previous day, the man had phoned ambulance control to say that he had access to a knife and a rope and was feeling suicidal.

In a sworn deposition at the Clare Coroner’s Court, Garda Bríd Troy of Ennistymon Garda Station said that she arrived at the home of the man on December 16 shortly after, in response to the ambulance call.

Garda Troy stated she has received a call at 13.50 concerning the man and that on arrival at his home, there was no sign of a rope or a knife but she saw empty packets of paracetamol and a bottle of wine on the kitchen table.

Garda Troy said that the man was seated at the kitchen table.

She stated: “He was visibly upset and stated that he was not in a good place and needed help.”

She stated: “He informed me that he had been suffering from depression and had taken paracetamol.”

Garda Troy told the inquest that when an ambulance arrived, the man “went voluntarily with the ambulance to University Hospital Limerick and seemed happy to do so”.

The following day, neighbours were alerted at around 2.45pm after the man’s partner of 16 years found a note on the kitchen table at their home saying ‘you will find me over at the shed’.

In a sworn deposition by a sister of the deceased, she stated that she believes that the following factors contributed to their brother’s death.

On behalf of the family, the woman’s deposition at the inquest listed these as the man was not being admitted to the bed that was secured for him by Limerick HSE; that the man was released alone from Ennis Hospital at approximately 4am on a cold winter’s night and that the failure to contact his stated next of kin at the time of his release left the man in a very vulnerable position.

The woman asked did the individuals who treated their brother on that night implement the HSE policy of care to a suicidal patient?

She said, “Our family fails to understand why Ennis HSE refuses to provide us with the timeline of events that happened that night whereas Limerick HSE handed over all records that night to the (named man’s) stated next of kin.”

The woman stated that “the failure of Ennis HSE to do so has left us with unanswered questions which has prevented us from going through the normal grieving process”.

She added, “It is our hope that this forum will help us get the information we seek to help prevent a recurrence into the future.”

In response, Clare County Coroner, Isobel O’Dea told the woman that “it is very important” that the family has raised these issues.

Ms O’Dea said that she had no option but to adjourn the inquest to January to allow the HSE respond to the questions raised by the family.

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