THE death of a Clarecastle man, Thomas Keenan, in an ambulance outside the Mid-West Regional Hospital, Ennis in the early hours of Wednesday, September 22, has given rise to contradictions regarding the arrival time of his family at the hospital and details on phone calls relating to the incident.
In a Health Service Executive response to the matter last week, a spokesman stated that the Keenan family knocked at the window and door of the hospital at 3.30am seeking help for 53-year-old Mr Keenan, who was in a state of cardiac collapse. It further stated that a nurse opened the door, called for back-up and at the same time called an emergency ambulance.
It has since emerged that Ennis Garda Station received three calls relating to the matter, between the times of 3.21am and 3.28am.
Chief Superintendent John Kerin and Superintendent Peter Duff initially confirmed that two calls were received on the 999 system at 3.21am.
“One was from a family member who stated that Thomas Keenan was having a heart attack, that they were outside Ennis hospital, that there was no doctor there or ambulance and that they needed help. The other call through the 999 system came from ambulance control saying that there was an incident at Ennis hospital and they required garda assistance. A third call was received directly to Ennis Garda Station (main switch) at 3.28am, by a member of staff at Ennis hospital, requesting garda assistance as soon as possible. No further information was recorded,” they stated.
It later emerged, following an examination of the Ennis Garda Station phone records by a garda communications technician this Wednesday afternoon, that one call was received through the 999 system from a Keenan family member at 3.21:18am. After this, the gardaí tried to ring ambulance control and at the same time, the ambulance control were phoning Ennis Garda Station. The phone records show that these calls ‘clashed’, with the ambulance control centre call to Ennis gardaí only connecting momentarily. Some two minutes later, a call from ambulance control to Ennis gardaí was received, requesting gardaí attend outside Ennis hospital, as there appeared to be a situation developing there.
At 3.28:37am, a call was received at Ennis Garda Station from a member of staff at Ennis hospital requesting urgent garda assistance at the hospital.
Supt Duff further confirmed that by the time the 3.28am call was received, a patrol car had already been dispatched in response to the 999 call at 3.21am and this car was on its way to the hospital. Arising from the 3.28am call, a second garda car was dispatched from the station to the hospital.
He added that one garda sergeant and a number of gardaí went to the hospital. The superintendent further stated that these times arising from the examination of phone records by the garda telecommunications technicians are “definitive”.
Arising from this information, The Clare Champion issued a number of questions to the HSE.
1. The HSE has claimed in a statement issued last week that the Keenan family did not arrive at Ennis hospital until 3.30am. If that is correct, how come a 999 call was placed at 3.21am by the Keenan family, stating that they were at the hospital requesting help for Thomas Keenan and by ambulance control at 3.23am stating that there was an incident at Ennis hospital requiring garda assistance?
2. In last week’s statement from the HSE, it was stated that, “The Keenan family knocked at the window and door of the hospital at 3.30am seeking help for Mr Keenan, who was in a state of cardiac collapse. A nurse opened the door, called for back-up and at the same time called an emergency ambulance.” How then was a 999 call from the ambulance control made to Ennis gardaí at 3.21am?
3. Given that ambulance control knew of a situation at Ennis hospital by 3.21am, why was a call from Ennis hospital made to them [to call the ambulance] to deal with this situation at 3.30am, as per the HSE statement? Why did the ambulance not go directly to deal with this situation, even before ringing the gardaí?
The ’Champion has also asked the HSE to comment on its contention last week that Mr Keenan received medical attention for a prolonged period of time, 45 minutes.
In a question relating to this point, The ’Champion asked, “In the HSE statement of last week, it was claimed that Mr Keenan received medical attention for a prolonged period of time, 45 minutes. However, the statement also contends that the Keenan family only began knocking on the door of the hospital at 3.30am and gardaн have confirmed that Mr Keenan’s death was pronounced at 4.07am. This is only 37 minutes, considerably shorter than 45 minutes. Does the HSE wish to comment on this?”
The HSE was asked to comment on the fact that the Keenan family is calling for a HSE inquiry into Mr Keenan’s death and how the situation was handled at the hospital.
The ’Champion also looked for a response from the HSE arising from the Keenan family’s consistent contention that the gardaí arrived first and that a garda went to get assistance from the ambulance crew.
“This clearly contradicts the HSE’s statement that ambulance crew were attending to Mr Keenan prior to the gardaí arriving. Is the HSE sure that the timing as provided in the HSE statement of last Wednesday is correct?” The Champion enquired.
In a response to all of these questions by the HSE, a spokesman stated that a detailed response to this unfortunate death had been provided to The ’Champion last week.
The HSE’s statement this week added, “The Clare Champion of Friday, October 1 contained a claim reflecting on the professional competence of our staff to the effect that the widow of the deceased ‘was banging on the (hospital) door for four or five minutes before anyone took notice’. This statement is untrue and has been shown to be so by examination of the CCTV footage.”
The spokesman for the HSE further stated, “For the record, they wish to state that three doctors, three nurses and four ambulance personnel worked over a 45-minute period to resuscitate Mr Keenan and that gardaí were called to the scene in the interest of patient and staff safety because of the behaviour of some of the people who arrived in front of the hospital.”
No other response has been forthcoming from the HSE in respect of any questions arising from this matter.
The Keenan family said that they are still considering what course of action to take in relation to their father’s death and the handling of the situation outside the hospital.
Thomas Keenan junior added that they have to decide whether they will speak to a solicitor about the matter.