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An investigation report into the abuses of Limerick University Hospital

Limerick: The recent revelation from the commission of inquiry into the tragic death of 16-year-old Aoife Johnston in Limerick Hospital two years ago has cast a harsh spotlight on the hospital’s inadequacies. The report, meticulously compiled by Prof. Brian Lenehan in collaboration with the HSE expert team, was handed to the grieving family just last week. Aoife’s demise, after an agonising twelve-hour wait for treatment, triggered nationwide protests, exposing the hospital’s shortcomings even as it maintains its status as the busiest in the country.

In the distressing account, young Aoife languished for hours in a crowded emergency department, her plea for sepsis treatment unheeded even in the late hours of the night. Despite repeated warnings from concerned relatives about the deteriorating health of the child, hospital authorities disregarded them, violating established standards for sepsis treatment. The commission’s report grimly notes that the lack of a coherent plan to manage the overwhelming patient influx, coupled with inadequate staffing, led to a tragic loss of life. The hospital management’s failure to comprehend and adhere to essential protocols is underscored in the report.

The situation is exacerbated by a 2009 government decision, criticized as ill-advised, to transfer 24-hour accident and emergency units from Limerick, Clare, and North Tipperary to UHL, thereby undermining the hospital’s operational capabilities. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, while expressing intentions to review the matter, later clarified that no reconsideration was currently underway.

In a rare move, both the HSE and the Commission of Inquiry have issued apologies to the grieving family, acknowledging the disgraceful lapses in care that have tarnished the entire health sector. The review report has been forwarded to the coroner for further action. UC Hospital Group Chief Executive Colette Cowan has personally extended an apology to the family, while Bernard Gloucester, chief executive of the HSE, is diligently reviewing the report and expressing a willingness to meet the family in person, pending their consent.

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