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A general view of University Hospital Limerick in Raheen. Photograph by John Kelly.

Call for clinical review of all local hospitals

A local hospital lobby group has called on Health Minister Stephen Donnelly (FF) to instruct the Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry to undertake a full new clinical review of hospital services in the UL Hospitals’ Group.
The call was made by the Friends of Ennis Hospital (FEH) who expressed concern about the “systematic failures” identified during an inquest into the death of Aoife Johnston, (16), Cronan Lawn, Shannon.
Limerick Coroner, John McNamara said he was personally “concerned about the overcrowding as a native of Limerick”, but he accepted changes were being made.
“There were systemic failures and issued opportunities in Aoife’s care. There were breakdowns in communication, clearly, throughout her care,” he added.
It comes after HSE CEO Bernard Gloster apologised again to the Johnston family after admitting in an RTE Radio One interview that, “We failed Aoife, our failure led to her death and we failed them as a family”.
“The Coroner’s recommendations will be fully considered, along with the work of retired Chief Justice Frank Clarke who is due to conclude his independent investigation in the coming weeks,” he said.
In a statement issued to The Clare Champion, the FEH described the details from Aoife’s inquest were in equal parts “horrific and heartbreaking”.
“The group cannot imagine the anguish being suffered by Aoife’s family and for those of us who are parents ourselves our hearts break for them,” read the statement.
“Aoife’s death was avoidable which is what makes it so tragic.”
The group reiterated its request that the CEO of the University of Limerick Hospitals Group, Colette Cowan, should be called before the Dáil Health Committee to answer questions on how University Hospital Limerick is run.
“Given the public interest and the need for transparency and accountability, it is imperative that the Health Committee compel her to appear and answer one key question: We were told Ennis was clinically unsafe…. is Limerick clinically safe?” it stated.
“It is our contention that the clinical advice given by the Chief Clinical Officer on December 4 requires a review in the context of this, and other tragic cases, as it is increasingly clear the operations of UHL are proven to be unsafe for the people of the Mid-West.
“Clare is the only county in Munster without an ED. Ennis, the largest town in Munster, has no Emergency Department.
“The UL Hospitals Group is the only group in the country relying on one ED.
“How Is This Safe? When the Hanly report was commissioned into services at Ennis hospital twenty years ago it recommended investment in Ennis to make it safe.
“The HIQA report into Ennis in 2008 was initiated after two cases of breast cancer misdiagnosis, this was used by the Minister Mary Harney to close the ED in Ennis.”
The group identified seven deaths from alleged medical misadventure at UHL since hospital services were reconfigured in the Mid-West in April 2009.
They include Teresa Lyons in December of 2016, Jessica Sheedy in May of 2018, Eve Cleary, July 2019, Martin Abbott, Shannon December 2019, Michael Daly Snr. April 2020, Susan Doherty July 2020, Aoife Johnston December 2022.
The group are currently awaiting inquests into the deaths of a second 16 year-old from Limerick and a young Clare mother, who died in February.
It stated the UL Hospitals’ Group has paid out €178 million in 549 legal claims since 2003.
This figure does not include compensation payments related to claims from inquests.

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