Consultant hits out at lack of ventilators at Tallaght Hospital

Criticism comes during inquest into May 2013 death of a mother of three from Dublin

Tallaght hospital said it has a rigorous maintenance programme in place for all equipment in the hospital, including the emergency department.

Tallaght hospital said it has a rigorous maintenance programme in place for all equipment in the hospital, including the emergency department.

Mon, Aug 25, 2014, 21:50

A leading A&E consultant has hit out at the lack of lifesaving ventilators in the emergency department at Tallaght hospital.

Dr James Gray, emergency medicine consultant, said it is a “disgrace” that engineers at the hospital are forced to “cannibalise” other machines to keep equipment going.

He made the comments at the inquest into the death of Diana Martin (34), a mother of three from Fettercairn Road, Tallaght, Dublin, who died at the hospital on May 31st last year after going into septic shock having developed pneumonia.

It emerged during the inquest at Dublin Coroner’s Court that a ventilator used in her resuscitation stopped working without sounding a warning and was off for a seven-minute period. Ms Martin was without oxygen for at least four minutes before doctors realised that the machine was off.

Giving evidence on the second day of the inquest, Dr Gray said Ms Martin was critical when she came into hospital. The ventilator failure happened “well into resuscitation” during a second round of cardiac arrest.

One ventilator

“Patients who go into a second round of cardiac arrest almost all die and the survival rate is not good,” he said.

The failure of the ventilator was a concern and he raised it with the risk management team, he said. At the time there was only one ventilator machine in the A&E department. A second ventilator machine has since been purchased.“We need another two. Two is not enough. There is an issue in the hospital around equipment and monitoring.”

Technology fails

’ Head of the Medical Physics department Dr Barry McMahon told the court that the ventilator was sent to the manufacturers who found “no fault with it that could have contributed to it losing power”. Asked by legal counsel for the family if he was saying that the failure was down to someone switching the machine off manually, Dr McMahon said he “cannot speculate as to what happened”.

“Technology fails, that is just how life is,” he said.

The ventilator is still in use at the hospital, he told the court.

Pathologist Dr Paul Crotty gave the cause of death as septic shock most likely due to bilateral pneumonia. He told the coroner it was “unlikely” that the ventilator failure was a “critical factor” in the death. Even if the ventilator had been working properly, the probability of death was greater than 95 per cent, he said.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said that he had no “causal connection” between the four minutes Ms Martin was without oxygen and her death. He returned a narrative verdict outlining the facts.

In a statement last night Tallaght hospital said it “extends its condolences to the family and relatives of the late Ms Diana Martin. Tallaght hospital would also like to state that it has a rigorous maintenance programme in place for all equipment in the hospital, including the emergency department.”