Archive for August 2015

Widow Makes Claim for a Wrongful Death due to an Ambulance Delay

The widow of a man who died from meningitis after waiting six hours for her husband to be taken to hospital is making a claim for a wrongful death due to an ambulance delay.

On 5th January this year, Lisa Armitage called the NHS 111 service worried about the condition of her husband Mthuthuzeli Mpongwana (37), who was complaining of a headache, fever and difficulty focusing in bright lights.

The 111 clinician recognised that Mthuthuzeli may be displaying the symptoms of meningitis and summoned an ambulance. However, the rapid response unit took three hours to arrive, during which time Mthuthuzeli became confused and delirious, and his skin turned grey.

The paramedic failed to recognise the symptoms of meningitis and downgraded the ambulance response to the lowest priority – meaning that an ambulance to take Mthuthuzeli from the couple´s home in Bedminster to the Bristol Royal Infirmary failed to arrive for another three hours.

When Mthuthuzeli was eventually admitted to hospital, his eyes were bulging and he had lost control of his limbs. He was taken straight to the resuscitation room, where he suffered a stroke and his brain began to swell. Lisa was told there was nothing more that could be done to save her husband, and Mthuthuzeli died when he was taken off life support on January 7th.

The inquest into Mthuthuzeli´s death found that he had died from natural causes “contributed to by a failure to take appropriate action”. The coroner said that a priority one back up ambulance should have been summoned when the rapid response unit had first arrived at the family home, and that benzo penicillin should have been administered. According to the coroner, the inappropriate level of care “resulted in a missed opportunity to render medical treatment”.

Following the inquest and a the results of a Serious Incident Report, in which failings were identified in the standard of care provided by the South West Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, Lisa contacted solicitors and made a claim for a wrongful death due to an ambulance delay. It is not yet known whether the NHS Trust will accept liability without further legal action.

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Compensation for Brain Damage due to Hospital Negligence Approved at Court

The High Court in Ireland has approved a €1.75 million settlement of compensation for brain damage due to hospital negligence after a four-week hearing.

On 6th September 1996, Thomas O´Connor was born at the Sligo General Hospital showing no signs of life due to being deprived of oxygen in the womb. Thomas was resuscitated and rushed to the hospital´s intensive care unit, but he suffered a heart attack on his way from the delivery theatre and his brain was deprived of oxygen for a second time until he was resuscitated again.

Thomas suffered terrible brain damage due to the lack of oxygen. Now eighteen years of age, Thomas is a spastic quadriplegic, blind, and has to be fed through a tube. He is cared for full-time in a residential facility close to his family´s home in Collooney in County Sligo, where his mother can visit him every day.

Through his mother – Ann O´Connor – Thomas claimed compensation for brain damage due to hospital negligence against the Sligo General Hospital and the Health Service Executive. It was alleged in the legal action that staff had failed to monitor the foetal heartrate prior to his birth, and that the heart attack was attributable to ineffective ventilation after the first time he was resuscitated.

The Sligo General Hospital and the Health Service Executive both denied negligence and contested the allegations. Consequently, the claim for compensation for brain damage due to hospital negligence went to the Dublin High Court where it was heard by Mr Justice Kevin Cross.

During the course of the four-week hearing, Judge Cross was told by an expert witness that the CTG trace monitoring Thomas´ foetal heartrate had been discontinued on the morning of his birth despite there being evidence of foetal distress. It was claimed that the failure to monitor his condition properly delayed Thomas´ birth by up to four hours and, had the foetal distress been identified and acted upon sooner, Thomas may have been spared his devastating birth injuries.

The judge also heard expert testimony that the tube used to ventilate Thomas had been inserted to a depth of 14cms. The depth it should have been inserted to was between 9cms and 10cms and the consequence of this alleged negligence was that Thomas was not ventilated effectively – causing the heart attack which exacerbated the degree of brain damage sustained by Thomas.

At the end of the hearing, the Health Service Executive agreed to a €1.75 million settlement of compensation for brain damage due to hospital negligence without an admission of liability. After being told that the settlement will be used to pay for Thomas´ continued care at the residential home in Collooney, Judge Cross approved the settlement – commenting he was delighted the legal ordeal had come to an end for the O´Connor family.

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