Homeless woman died after being turned away from shelter

Cork Simon tells inquest it could not admit Kathleen O’Sullivan as she was intoxicated

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said Kathleen O’Sullivan died after ingesting prescribed drugs in the fatal range. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said Kathleen O’Sullivan died after ingesting prescribed drugs in the fatal range. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

A homeless woman who died on the streets of Cork was remembered by the Simon Community as a person of “great warmth” who was held in affection by staff, having been a long term service user of the service.

Kathleen O’Sullivan (43) died on the streets of Cork on December 6th, 2017 She was found huddled under blankets at a doorway on Lower Oliver Plunkett Street in the city. Her aunt Helen also died in the same doorway while sleeping rough in 2010.

Cork Coroner’s Court heard on Thursday that Kathleen had presented at Cork Simon Community the night before she died. She was intoxicated. It is the procedure of Simon staff to tell clients to return when they have sobered up. Coroner Philip Comyn heard that for health and safety reasons intoxicated people cannot be admitted to the shelter.

Solicitor for Cork Simon, John Murphy, said staff had affection for Kathleen. He offered his sympathy to the family of the deceased following their loss.

The inquest heard from staff who worked on the night. They said they felt Ms O’Sullivan had taken tablets and was confused. They also believed she had a lot of alcohol on board, and so could not be admitted.

Tragically, she did not ask to be reassessed following her first presentation at the door of Cork Simon even though CCTV showed she was in the vicinity of the premises for some time.

Dr Diarmuid Kavanagh of Simon said they often have upwards of 65 people at the facility at night. They have a “set of rules” for admitting individuals.

Garda Fiona Sands said Ms O’Sullivan was found unresponsive on the morning of December 6th. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Kathleen had bedded down in a doorway overnight. There was no evidence of drug or alcohol use at the scene.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said Ms O’Sullivan died after ingesting prescribed drugs in the fatal range. A verdict of misadventure was recorded in the case.

Coroner Mr Philip Comyn said that he was always struck by the “empathy” of staff at Simon. He also said that staff onsite were very professional.