The family of a man who died from complications from medical complications after falling for a walk with his dog called for normal weekday care to be maintained in hospitals over holiday weekends.
An investigation in Dublin’s Coroner’s Court heard that Kevin Neligan, 74, of Killiney, County Dublin, suffered two fractured vertebrae in his neck after tripping over a dog leash on February 19, 2018 while on the beach with the family’s bull terrier walked from Killiney.
Mr Neligan, a retired manager of Enterprise Ireland, died just over six weeks later at St. Vincent’s University Hospital after suffering irreversible brain damage after suffering a sudden heart attack while in hospital.
His wife Bettina told the coroner Dr. Crona Gallagher that the family was confused as to why her husband, who had no pre-existing heart disease, had cardiac arrest shortly after a tracheostomy.
She claimed his family wanted to arrange private physical therapy for him in his ward when his condition appeared to be getting worse over a holiday weekend.
Ms. Neligan said it was “quite extraordinary” that patients were not receiving such treatment during vacation.
“The patients are the recipients of these bottlenecks. You don’t get the care you should think of in a hospital after paying for private health insurance all your life, ”she noted.
However, the hospital’s attorney Kevin Power said medical staff have always been informed that St. Vincent’s physical therapists are available and should be contacted over a holiday weekend if necessary.
Mrs. Neligan also wondered if her husband’s death could have been avoided if, on the night of his fall in St. Vincent’s, he had been treated sooner than he could not lie on a cart because of his severe pain.
The next day, he was transferred to the hospital’s intensive care unit after having difficulty breathing on an MRI scan.
He then had a tracheostomy on February 22, 2018 to help him breathe before being transferred to an orthopedic ward when his condition improved.
Ms. Neligan said at the time that he was “on the mend”.
However, she said she did not like the way he looked because he “grew into the bed” when she visited the hospital on Monday, March 19, 2018, on a public holiday.
The investigation heard that Mr. Neligan suffered cardiovascular arrest two days later, shortly after the tube attached to his windpipe was suctioned.
Ms. Neligan said his family decided to withdraw life support devices on March 30, 2018 after being informed that he had suffered irreversible brain damage.
Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon Paul Curtin said Mr Neligan suffered a serious neck injury that required immobilization.
Curtin said he had never experienced the type of swelling the patient had before his vertebrae fractured, which required intubation and then a tracheostomy.
The counselor said there had been no warning signs that Mr Neligan had developed a blood clot or pneumonia and he was able to walk at one stage with the help of a frame.
He said an earlier MRI scan after the deceased arrived at the emergency room had no effect on the result.
An autopsy revealed that the cause of death was brain damage caused by a cardiovascular attack from a combination of a large blood clot and pneumonia.
The pathologist Dr. Kate Dineen said there was no evidence of tracheostomy-related infection.
When returning an accidental death verdict, Dr. Gallagher said Mr. Neligan’s fall was “the root” of all the medical complications he had suffered.
Dr. Gallagher said evidence from several medical witnesses suggested the tracheostomy was not responsible for his death.
The coroner said she would brief St. Vincent of the bank holiday weekend staffing issue, noting that there was ongoing “tension” within the health services.
The investigation found that although St. Vincent’s did not conduct an investigation into Mr. Neligan’s death, a group at the hospital was reviewing tracheostomy procedures.