Court told gravely ill woman left on chair at Beaumont Hospital for three days

Husband claiming damages for psychological upset and distress allegedly caused

Accident and Emergency Department at Beaumont Hospital. Photograph: David Sleator.

Accident and Emergency Department at Beaumont Hospital. Photograph: David Sleator.


A gravely ill woman was kept sitting in a chair for three days in the Accident and Emergency Dapartment of Beaumont Hospital and died six days after eventually getting a bed, the Circuit Civil Court has been told.

Mary Dignam’s husband, Anthony (75), who visited her daily, is suing the hospital for up to €38,000 damages for personal injury allegedly caused to him by psychological upset and distress he claims he suffered because of her treatment and since her death in June 2010.

Mr Dignam, a chauffeur and taximan, of Swords, Co Dublin, claims his wife had been an in-patient suffering with liver disease at St Patrick’s University Hospital, Dublin, and had been transferred on June 11th, 2010 to Beaumont for daily review and treatment.

He alleges it had been agreed she would be admitted directly into a bed at Beaumont as her physical health and wellbeing was deteriorating. She spent three days sitting in a chair before getting a bed on June 14th.

Barrister Pat Purcell, counsel for Mr Dignam, told Judge Jacqueline Linnane that Mrs Dignam was gravely ill at the time and had died in Beaumont Hospital on June 20th.

Mr Purcell said Mr Dignam had become very upset and distressed as a result of the manner in which his wife had been treated and suffered psychological injury. He was alleging negligence and breach of duty on the part of Beaumont Hospital.

The court heard that on Friday, June 11th, 2010, doctors in St Patrick’s had carried out a review of Mrs Dignam and it had been decided that the most appropriate course of action was to discharge her to the Gastroenterology Team in Beaumont.

Following talks with a member of the Gastroenterology team in Beaumont, it was agreed she should be admitted by the Beaumont Hospital medical team and that the Gastroenterology service there would review her daily over the weekend and take over her care fully on the following Monday morning, June 14th.

Mr Dignam claims that at all times he believed his wife would be admitted directly into a bed, particularly in circumstances where her physical health and wellbeing was deteriorating. The St Patrick’s medical team also believed she would be given a bed immediately.

Mr Dignam alleges Beaumont hospital failed to inform his wife’s consultant in St Patrick’s that a bed would not be available at Beaumont for upwards of three days. He also claims Beaumont failed to properly assess Mrs Dignam and provide her with an appropriate level of comfort.

In his legal pleadings Mr Dignam stated that, following his initial visit to the A&E Department at Beaumont, he became upset at seeing his wife in a chair, but had been assured she would be provided with a bed as soon as possible.

When he returned to the hospital later that night, June 11th, his wife was still in a chair, attempting to sleep and looking very uncomfortable.

The following morning (June 12th) he returned to see her and had been “confronted with the sight of his very ill wife sitting in the chair”.

He notified other family members, including his son and daughter, who visited the hospital and complained. On June 13th, he returned to Beaumont and was “horrified to see that his extremely ill wife was still sitting in a chair”.

It was the following day before she had been given a bed.

In its defence, the hospital stated that while a bed had not become available until June 14th, Mrs Dignam had been provided with appropriate medical care and treatment.

The court heard the hospital had lodged a full defence including the seeking of a preliminary order striking out the claim on the basis it was statute barred and protected only by a late Personal Injuries Assessment Board authorisation to bring the claim. The hospital claimed Mr Dignam had never required authorisation under the PIAB legislation.

Judge Linnane said Mr Dignam did require an authorisation from PIAB. He was not the person being treated in the hospital and his claim arose out of the pain he suffered in seeing his wife in a chair for three days before she had been given a bed.

Mrs Dignam passed away on Sunday, June 20th. Tthe cause of death indicated she had been at a de-compensated end stage of alcoholic liver disease. It had also been noted she had a subdural haematoma.