A hospital inquiry into the tragic case of a Connemara man with hearing and speech problems who died while trying to find his way home from a hospital appointment has acknowledged deficits in its system.
Dr Sean Conroy, the director of the HSE West’s regional health forum, described the case of 60-year-old Clifden man Sean Flaherty - who was killed in a car accident in February after attending University Hospital Galway’s emergency department for treatment for a broken arm - as “very tragic”.
The late Mr Flaherty had been given a letter to attend UHG’s emergency department by his GP. It stated he was suffering from speech and hearing problems and a local hackney was organised to take him to the hospital. He left the facility with his arm in a sling and no way home. He was observed that evening enquiring which road led to Clifden and later called to houses in the Bushypark area seeking directions. The school caretaker died after being knocked down on the Moycullen Road as he tried to make his way home.
Dr Conroy told a meeting of the Regional Health Forum West that when the issue of the late Mr Flaherty was raised previously at the forum the health authority could not comment on this individual case.
He said now however the investigation and inquest were over and the coroner had made its findings public.
He stated the hospital inquiry has been carried out and it acknowledged deficits in its system. In reponse to a claim by city Mayor Padraig Conneely he said it was not correct however to say the hospital had not taken steps to prevent it happening again.
Cllr Conneely outlined that the inquest on November 14 recommended that the HSE draw up guidelines both for discharging patients with disabilities to ensure their safe return home and for taxi drivers bringing people with disabilities to and from hospital.
He said it was nine months since the accident and he was “very disappointed” that no protocols had been put in place for taxi services taking people with disabilities to hospital and for assessing such patients at UHG’s emergency department.
“I was astounded to hear the evidsence at the inquest from a member of UHG. They were of the opinion that Mr Flaherty was fit and well enough to understand despite a letter from his GP saying he was deaf and had a speech impediment. I knew him. He stopped at a house at Bushypark, he didn’t know his way home. That’s how bad he was.”