Asylum seeker with ‘acute illness’ died after transfer without medical notes, court hears

Accommodation centre not told of man’s condition due to data-protection policy

The jury recommended that asylum seekers with medical complaints begiven relevant medical information when being transferred. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The jury recommended that asylum seekers with medical complaints begiven relevant medical information when being transferred. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

An asylum seeker with a serious heart condition who was moved to Cork without his medical notes died nine weeks after the transfer, a Coroner’s Court has heard.

The Algerian national, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been treated in Dublin for six months from January 2017, when he and his wife first sought asylum and were living at the Balseskin reception centre in Dublin.

The couple was moved to Kinsale Road Accommodation Centre in Cork in June 2017 despite concerns raised about the 46-year-old man’s heart condition. His widow told the court her husband had a defibrillator implant and was unable to walk 200m without extreme breathlessness.

She said he spent his last few weeks of life in extreme distress as he had to take repeated trips by bus from Cork to Dublin for hospital treatment.

The woman told Cork Coroner’s Court on Wednesday her husband had received medical attention at Connolly Hospital and the Mater Hospital from January to June 2017 when they were living at the Dublin centre.

He was rushed by ambulance to both hospitals for breathlessness during that period and was to attend follow-up appointments at the Mater.

Breda Keane, manager of the Kinsale centre, said they do not receive medical information about a person who is coming to the centre. It is a data-protection issue, she said.

The couple had been allocated an upstairs room. However, staff on site sourced a downstairs room soon after their arrival.

The man was rushed by ambulance to Cork University Hospital (CUH) on two occasions from June until his death in August 2017, the court heard.

His widow said her husband suffered hugely as a result of having to travel to Dublin for several scheduled medical and asylum appointments that summer.

Overnight accommodation was provided by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) when they went to Dublin for appointments.

“My husband died just nine weeks after his transfer took place and his last weeks were categorised by stress, anxiety and acute illness as a result of his transfer,” the woman said. “He was forced to spend extensive periods travelling on buses when he should have been resting and conserving his energy.”

The court heard the couple moved to Ireland because efforts had been made to extort money from them in Algeria.

Equivalent services

The man died on August 12th, 2017 at CUH. An incision procedure had been carried out on site to remove fluid from his heart after he presented at the emergency department feeling ill.

Doctors had, at one point, thought he had gallstones but there was no evidence of same in the autopsy.

Ciaran Lewis, SC, representing the widow in the case, said the man’s care had not been transferred formally from the Mater to CUH and no notes had been forwarded. However, staff at CUH said he received the best possible care.

The widow of the deceased said the day after his death she was transferred back to Dublin and given a double room at an accommodation centre where she is still living. She said she couldn’t understand why the room wasn’t given to them when her husband was alive.

Linda Keating, assistant principal officer at the RIA, told the inquest that services at CUH were equivalent to those on offer at the Mater.

Ms Keating said the man had been assessed by the HSE medical team prior to his transfer to Cork. She acknowledged that they had received transfer representations from the couple and human rights non-governmental organisation Nasc prior to his death.

Dr Margaret Bolster, who carried out a postmortem on the deceased, said he died as a result of the serious inherited cardiac disease ARVD. The congestive heart failure was due to his condition associated with pericarditis, haemorrhage or bleeding due to sepsis and an infection from his defibrillator.

Mr Lewis said no consideration was given to accommodating the man in any centre outside of Cork.

He stressed that staff at the Mater were fully cognizant of the medical history in the case and that there was no transfer of notes. He also made reference to the extreme anxiety caused to the man by the decision to transfer him to Cork.

The jury recorded a verdict of death by natural causes. They recommended that asylum seekers with medical complaints be furnished with the relevant medical information when being transferred to a different centre.

Coroner Philip Comyn extended his condolences to the widow of the deceased.