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State’s Covid response must be examined

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NO DEVIATION FROM MUH Coroner for Mayo, Patrick O'Connor.

Coroner records death from natural causes in MUH Covid case

Anton McNulty

The Coroner for Mayo has asked for a national group to be established to examine the State’s response to Covid-19 after finding Mayo University Hospital followed all national guidelines at the start of the pandemic.
Mr Patrick O’Connor, Coroner for the district of Mayo, made his recommendation after finding that a Bellacorick man who died from Covid-19 in April 2020 died from natural causes and not as a result of misadventure.
John (Jackie) Carolan (79), a retired ESB worker, of Ballymunnelly, Bellacorick, died in MUH on April 1, 2020, as a result of contracting Covid-19. The father of four had been admitted to the hospital on March 18, 2020, after suffering a stroke at his north Mayo home.
MUH’s Covid implementation plan was questioned at his inquest last month, after it was revealed that a patient with Covid-19 had been placed in the Elderly Care Medical Ward along with Mr Carolan and other vulnerable patients.

Very sick man
Mr David O’Malley, solicitor for the Carolan family, had requested that a verdict of misadventure be recorded, as Mr Carolan was placed in danger as a result of a Covid patient being placed in his ward.
However, at yesterday’s sitting of the coroner’s court in Swinford, Mr O’Connor found that MUH had followed the national guidelines and Mr Carolan had died as a result of natural causes.
“In all circumstances I had to look at the manner in which Mayo University Hospital applied the guidelines that were issued from the national government right down through the HSE to the hospital in Castlebar,” he said.
“I find that there was no deviation by Mayo University Hospital in relation to the manner in which Mr Carolan was treated. It may be that the whole question of guidelines have been revisited … but at the time in April 2020, Mr Carolan a very sick man was admitted to Mayo University Hospital in the hope of being recovered and one of the last thing his family wanted was to pass away. Regrettably he did pass away.
“Taking in to account all the circumstances and having read on a number of occasions over the past few weeks with the assistance of the transcripts and medical records and charts of Mr Carolan, it is my finding that Mr Carolan died of natural causes,” he said.
Mr O’Connor recorded a verdict of death due to natural causes but again reiterated a call for a national expert group be established to look at how the State dealt with Covid-19 and the responses it took to it.

Family’s belief
During his stay in the hospital, Mr Carolan failed to respond to treatment and his condition deteriorated. He was tested for Covid-19 on March 31, the day before he died. The test subsequently came back positive for Covid-19 on April 3 and it was revealed the a patient with Covid-19 had been placed in his ward before his death.
Mr Carolan was not tested for Covid-19 on his admission to hospital, and it is his family’s belief that he contracted the virus following his admission.
Teresa Shaw, daughter of Mr Carolan, who works as a nurse in the Royal Maternity Hospital in Belfast, told the inquest last month that after reviewing her father’s medical files it was ‘clear’ that his condition had deteriorated after the first week and that he was presenting shortness of breath and symptoms for Covid-19.
MUH rejected the suggestion that there was no designated ward for Covid and suspected Covid patients, and said it followed national guidelines at the time, which had been evolving since the start of the pandemic.
In his ruling, Mr O’Connor said that when Mr Carolan was admitted to hospital in March 2020, the world was still coming to terms with the pandemic.
“It is quite clear from this inquest that there was clear guidelines given by the State to the HSE through to the various hospitals and medical centres. The establishment of those guidelines developed as time went on, and I suspect there is still an element of them being developed further. One has to bear in mind that in April 2020 when talking of the death of Mr Carolan Covid was in its early stages.”

Not gone away
Mr O’Connor said Covid-19 had caused the death of a ‘significant number of people’ in Ireland, but explained that there was also a distinction between those who died with Covid and those who died from Covid.
“We know for a fact that over 6,530 people have died with or from Covid since March of 2020, and regretfully on a weekly basis I am still notified of deaths from or with Covid from hospitals or nursing homes. It is abating but it has not gone away and will be with us for a significant period of time,” he commented.
Padraig Brennan, solicitor for the HSE and MUH thanked Mr O’Connor for the courteous manner in which he conducted the inquest and extended his sympathy to Mr Carolan’s widow Madge and the Carolan family.
Mr O’Malley also thanked Mr O’Connor for the way he conducted the inquest and hoped his guidelines will be implemented by the relevant authorities. Mr O’Connor concluded the inquest by offering his sincere condolences to the Carolan family.

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