Hospital apologises for ‘deficits of care’ resulting in untimely death of man (57)

Don Fennelly would have survived if diagnosis and treatment were not delayed at Cork University Hospital, family counsel tells court

Cork University Hospital has apologised for “shortcomings” and acknowledged “deficits of care” that resulted in the untimely death of a 57-year-old man.

Business development manager Don Fennelly, from Bishopstown, Cork, who was awaiting a third kidney transplant, was admitted to Cork University Hospital (CUH) on December 31st, 2017, with gastrointestinal bleeding.

It was claimed there was negligence in the investigation, diagnosis, treatment, management and care of Mr Fennelly and after a section of his colon was perforated during a procedure the next day, January 1st, 2018.

There was also an alleged delay in the adequate treatment of the abdominal sepsis that developed and it was claimed Mr Fennelly was deprived of the opportunity to recover from his condition. He died in CUH on March 2nd, 2018.

In a letter to Mr Fennelly’s wife, Colette, and daughter, Megan, which was read to the High Court, CUH extended the deepest sympathy of the hospital staff for Mr Fennelly’s “tragic and untimely loss”.

Signed by the hospital interim chief executive, Dr Gerard O’Callaghan, the letter offered “heartfelt apologies for the shortcomings in the care provided and the distress suffered” by Ms Fennelly and her family.

The letter added: “CUH would like to acknowledge the deficits of care which resulted in the untimely death of your husband and father Don. We recognise that this loss has had a profound and devastating effect on you and your family.”

The letter of apology was read out as Ms Fennelly settled a High Court action against the HSE over the death of her husband in 2018. The HSE admitted liability in the case two weeks ago.

The details of the settlement are confidential.

The Fennelly family counsel, Robert Fitzpatrick, told the court that, according to medical experts on their side, Mr Fennelly would have survived if the diagnosis and treatment were not delayed. At issue in the case was the decision for conservative management and treatment of the colon perforation.

Ms Fennelly, of Bishopstown, Cork, had sued the HSE over the care provided and the death of her husband at the hospital.

Mr Fennelly was admitted to CUH on December 31st, 2017, with a history of lower gastrointestinal bleeding. The next day he had a surgical procedure when it is claimed his colon was perforated and he suffered a deterioration.

Mr Fennelly’s condition continued to deteriorate and by January 4th signs of generalised peritonitis were manifest, it was claimed.

CT scans later showed an intra-abdominal abscess but it was claimed no adequate steps were taken to treat it or to establish the source of infection.

It was decided after a contrast study on February 12th, 2018, which confirmed a defect in the colon with a huge abscess in the abdomen, that Mr Fennelly would have surgery.

Mr Fennelly by this stage had complex abdominal sepsis for at least a month, it was claimed. During the surgery, he allegedly suffered an injury to the small intestine and he deteriorated further with multiple organ failures. He was transferred to the hospital ICU, where on March 2nd, 2018, he was pronounced dead.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Paul Coffey extended his deepest sympathy to the Fennellys.