Boy left severely disabled over treatment delays receives €2.4m

Eoghan Dunne (4) is partially blind, cannot walk or stand unaided and is fed through a peg tube

A boy left severely disabled over delays in diagnosing and treating a bacterial infection has settled his High Court action on terms including an interim payment of €2.4m

Eoghan Dunne was just a few weeks short of his first birthday in August 2012 when he was brought to A&E Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, Co Galway with a fever, breathlessness and lethargy.

Through his mother Teresa Dunne, Cappyroe, Ballinagar, Tullamore, Co Offaly, the child sued the Health Service Executive (HSE) as a result of the failings in his care at Portiuncula Hospital. Full liability was admitted in the case this week, the court heard.

Bruce Antoniotti SC, for the boy, said he should have been given antibiotics straight away as the results of assessment should have raised "alarm bells". He said their medical experts would say results of tests had indicated a bacterial infection.


Counsel said the baby was brought to A&E at Portiuncula about 4.40pm on August 3rd 2012 where a note at 6pm recorded that the baby was to commence intravenous antibiotics. That did not occur at that time, the baby’s condition deteriorated and after midnight on August 4th he was in “severe respiratory distress”.

At this stage, seven hours after he arrived at the hospital, broad spectrum antibiotics were suggested. His case was that the antibiotics should have been administered once the baby arrived at Portiuncula Hospital.

Mr Antoniotti said they could not say no damage would have occurred but that may have been minor damage, if any.

Eoghan was transferred to Temple Street Children’s Hospital, Dublin, critically ill and in septic shock, he said. At 6.45am on August 4th, he suffered cardiac arrest and took ten minutes to resuscitate. He was diagnosed as suffering from severe necrotising pneumonia and sepsis with multi-organ failure.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told that Eoghan, who celebrates his fifth birthday soon, is partially blind with cerebral palsy, cannot walk or stand unaided and is fed through a peg tube.

In a letter to Eoghan's parents, Teresa and Ronan Dunne, the general manager of Portiuncula Hospital James Keane had sincerely apologised for the failings in the care provided to Eoghan on August 3rd and 4th 2012 . He also apologised for the manner in which an internal hospital review was undertaken and communicated to the parents at the time. The parents are aware that a "full HSE review" is ongoing into all aspects of Eoghan's care, it was stated.

Mr Keane also said the hospital did not underestimate “how traumatic this has been” for the couple and the many challenges the family faced “ as a result of the treatment provided to Eoghan.”

Teresa Dunne told the court that her son had to celebrate his first birthday in a coma.

“I will never see my son take his first steps, play football, go to college or fall in love, but he has a family who love him who will make sure he has a good life and we will next week have a party to celebrate his fifth birthday and his life.”

She showed a photo of her son taken on August 2nd, a day before he became sick.

In a statement read to the court, Ms Dunne said that the pain her son endured over the past four years was “unbelievable” and particularly when a tube had to be inserted to be peg fed. ” He cried and cried every time. My heart was breaking every time.”

She spoke of her shock when her son was transferred to the Dublin hospital and they were told his chances of survival were 50/50. She added she also wanted to forgive for the “human mistakes made” and hoped lessons have been learned.

Approving the interim payment for the next four years, Mr Justice Kevin Cross said that despite criticism of “compensation culture”, litigation was the only way families like the Dunnes could achieve justice.

In a statement later, Eoghan’s father Ronan Dunne, said the failures in care at Portiuncula Hospital had a “catastrophic impact” on his son’s health. While relieved to have reached the settlement, and acknowledging the admission of liability and apology, his family must “add our names to the long list of families who have stood where we stand now and called for change to the system”.

The State only this week accepted liability and the hospital only apologised today, he said. They had four years of “incredible stress and worry”, put everything at risk to progress the case and their son had lost out on possible treatments.

They would never understand how unprepared the hospital was for an admission such as Eoghan or how, on completion of a first review of the case, “nobody thought we deserved to receive a copy”.