Second man dies after A&E unit shut

18 December 2004
By Evelyn Ring

A HEART attack victim who fell ill just minutes away from his local hospital, died after being taken to another hospital 37 miles away.

His local hospital, Monaghan General Hospital, was unable to treat him because its accident and emergency service was off-call due to cutbacks in services. This is the second time a man has died in such circumstances in the past seven weeks.

The Health Services Action Group has warned that more such deaths are likely to occur if the Hanly Report, which will strip smaller hospitals of their services, is implemented.

The 55-year-old man, who lived in Monaghan, was just a few hundred yards from the hospital when he collapsed in the town on Monday evening. He was taken by ambulance to Cavan Hospital where he went into cardiac arrest and died.

On Tuesday, October 26, last, Bernie McCullagh, who lived a few hundred yards from the hospital, died following a heart attack in his home. Mr McCullagh, 72, died while being taken by ambulance to Cavan Hospital.

The North Eastern Health Board has said it was satisfied that the emergency calls in both cases were responded to in a prompt and skilled manner.

The NEHB took Monaghan General Hospital off acute emergency call in July 2002.

The Government has since sanctioned five junior doctors in anaesthesia, which will allow the hospital to resume its emergency service in January.

While the hospital will be able to deal with heart attacks or asthma attacks; trauma victims who may require surgical intervention will still have to be brought to Cavan.

Ironically, both Mr McCullagh and the latest victim would have been treated in Monaghan if taxi or private car had taken them there.

Chairperson of the Health Services Action Group, Peadar McMahon, said all ambulances were instructed to take emergency patients to either Cavan General Hospital or Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, Co Louth.

"We don't know if the two men would have lived if they were brought to Monaghan but their chances of survival would have been better," he said.

Consultant physician and vice-chair of the group, Dr John Barton, said the hospital should not have been allowed to go off-call in the first place.

"Leaving people without a safety net for emergencies is just deplorable. I am a conscientious doctor and the medical care of people is my primary focus," he stressed.

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