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Interim Settlement of Compensation Claim against the Portiuncula Hospital Approved

The interim settlement of a child´s compensation claim against the Portiuncula Hospital and HSE has been approved by Mr Justice Cross at the High Court.

On 3rd August 2012, eleven-month old Eoghan Dunne from Tullamore in County Offaly was admitted to Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe suffering from a high heart rate and severe respiratory distress. Due to the severity of his condition, Eoghan was transferred twelve hours later to the Temple Street Children´s Hospital in Dublin.

At the Temple Street Hospital, Eoghan suffered a cardiac arrest due to septic shock. He suffered brain damage due to a lack of oxygen, and now suffers from epilepsy, is visually impaired and cannot walk or talk. Eoghan spent six months in hospital being treated for his condition, but will need twenty-four hour care for the rest of his life.

A review of the treatment Eoghan received at the Portiuncula Hospital revealed a catalogue of inadequacies. Allegedly the hospital was ill-prepared for Eoghan´s admission, had failed to administer antibiotics in breach of the HSE´s guidelines for the treatment of sepsis, and had taken too long to arrange the transfer to Temple Street Hospital due to a lack of “competent staff”.

Eoghan´s parents – Ronan and Teresa – sought legal advice and made a compensation claim against the Portiuncula Hospital and HSE, alleging that their son would not have suffered such devastating injuries had it not been for a failure in the hospitals´ duty of care. The HSE denied liability for Eoghan´s injuries, and a court hearing was scheduled for earlier this week.

However, with a few days to go until the hearing was due to start, the HSE accepted that mistakes had been made in Eoghan´s care and an interim settlement of the compensation claim against the Portiuncula Hospital was agreed. As the claim had been made on behalf of a child, the proposed settlement had to be approved by a judge to ensure it was in Eoghan´s best interests.

At the approval hearing, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told the circumstances of Eoghan´s admission into the Portiuncula Hospital and the subsequent events that had occurred. The judge commented that, if liability had been admitted at an earlier stage, Eoghan could have received therapy and treatment for his injuries at “a vital developmental stage” rather than much later.

The judge approved the interim €2.4 million settlement of the compensation claim against the Portiuncula Hospital, and adjourned the case for four years – by which time a review of Eoghan´s future needs will have been conducted. In 2020, the family will have the option of taking a lump sum compensation payment if a system of periodic payments has not been introduced.

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