Coroner reserves decision following four-day hearing into death of man who left hospital in early hours

Coroner makes clear he will not be recording a verdict of death by suicide in the case of Patrick Rowland (69), who drowned after leaving Mayo University Hospital

Patrick Rowland who discharged himself from MUH, rang his son to bring him home, but when son arrived he had disappeared and was later found drowned in the Castlebar river

An inquest verdict on the death of a man who drowned after leaving Mayo University Hospital (MUH) in the early hours of January 17th, 2023, has been reserved by Patrick O’Connor, coroner for the district of Mayo.

However, Mr O’Connor made it clear on Thursday afternoon that when he delivers a verdict next month he won’t be recording a verdict of death by suicide in the case of 69-year-old Patrick Rowland from Tubbernavine, Lahardane, Ballina.

Mr Rowland was suffering from pneumonia and sepsis when he left Ward B of MUH wearing only pyjamas and slippers and emerged through a basement exit into sub-zero temperatures

An inquest lasting four days at Swinford courthouse this week heard that when outside the hospital Mr Rowland rang his son, Cormac, to collect him in Castlebar.


But when Cormac Rowland rushed in to Castlebar there was no sign of his father and a major search operation involving hospital security staff, gardaí, fire brigade personnel and members and relatives of the Rowland family was mounted.

Two days later, the body of the retired procurement manager with Volex Ireland was recovered some miles downstream of where he is believed to have fallen in, near the County Cleaners premises at Newtown, Castlebar.

In evidence earlier this week, Cormac Rowland, a schoolteacher, recalled that half an hour before he took the phone call from his father he had been by his beside in the ward to which he had been moved after 43 hours on a trolley.

He testified that what had happened now “keeps me awake at night and fills me with anger”.

Evidence was given at Thursday’s hearing that Patrick Rowland had made a failed attempt to leave the hospital at about 9.30pm, some hours before he successfully exited the hospital at 1.08am.

John Joyce, a security officer at MUH, said after being informed by porter Michael Grimes that a patient was “wandering around” he caught up with Mr Rowland whom, he said, was very agitated and said he wanted to leave the hospital.

Mr Joyce said he established the patient’s name and brought him back to the emergency department where he refused to get back on his trolley.

The witness said he brought Mr Rowland to the nurses’ station where he sat down with him for an hour until Cormac Rowland arrived and said he would settle his father down.

In response to Roger Murray SC (Callan Tansey & Co), representing the Rowland family, Mr Joyce said when he asked Mr Rowland how he was feeling he replied: “I am not too bad. I just want to get out of here.”

Mr Joyce said at 1.25am he was told Mr Rowland was missing.

He explained that on viewing CCTV he established the missing patient had left B Ward at 1.08am, had gone to the stairway and had made his way to the basement where he exited.

Son of man who died after leaving hospital on January night says call was ‘beyond crazy’Opens in new window ]

The inquest heard from 35 witnesses including the late Mr Rowland’s wife, Louisa, his son Cormac and daughter-in-law Marcella as well as medical staff at the hospital.

According to members of his family, Mr Rowland had been greatly confused during his stay in hospital. However, the suggestion of confusion or delirium was denied by witnesses from the hospital.

One of those witnesses, nurse Orla Mulligan Collins, said that at no stage was Mr Rowland delirious or confused but was angry and annoyed that he had been left for so long on a trolley.

At the conclusion of the evidential process on Thursday afternoon, the coroner said he would not be immediately recording a verdict or making recommendations.

He invited both legal teams, headed by Mr Murray SC (for the Rowland family) and Luán Ó Braonáin SC (for the Health Service Executive and MUH hospital staff) to make submissions to him regarding the verdict and recommendations, by 5pm on July 8th.

He said he would announce his decision on both verdict and recommendations on July 22nd.