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Mortuary staff unaware man had Hepatitis C virus



A man who died in UHG, seven days after collapsing in a friend’s garden last year, was found to have had a highly-infectious disease which had not been communicated to mortuary staff, an Inquest into his death heard.

Coroner for West Galway, Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin, said that while his main concern was for the people that his office employed, this was also a wider public health issue that needed to be further investigated.

“He had a contagious infectious condition, and because the people in the (mortuary) lab weren’t informed, the risk could have been passed on,” he said.

“People should be warned if someone has an infectious disease.”

He determined the cause of death, in accordance with the medical evidence, but deferred the case for another month to allow the consultant in charge at the time of his admission the opportunity to account for his or her actions.

Joseph McDonagh (65), of 68 Walter Macken Place, Mervue, died in UHG on August 1, 2017, having been admitted with a skull fracture a week earlier.

A family friend had told the inquest that he had called unexpectedly to her house in Bohermore on the evening of July 23 last. He was quite intoxicated on leaving, and had insisted on walking home. Early the next morning, however, a neighbour knocked at her door to say that a man was lying in her garden.

“She told me not to bother him, that he had been causing trouble,” the neighbour recalled in her deposition.

“I told her there was blood all over his head.”

He was taken to the emergency department of UHG, where his Glasgow Coma Scale, which records a patient’s level of consciousness, was 3/15. A CT brain scan revealed a severe head injury, and neurosurgeons in Beaumont Hospital deemed him unfit for transfer or for surgical intervention.

He was subsequently admitted to the Intensive Care Unit for one-to-one care.

Following hospital admission, Gardaí carried out door-to-door enquiries in the vicinity, but no neighbours recalled anything out of the normal.

“We did not establish any foul play in the head injuries sustained by Mr McDonagh,” Detective Garda Tom Doyle, told the inquiry.

Mr McDonagh’s condition did not improve, however, and he passed away on the morning of August 1 2017. Death was pronounced at 2.15am, and his remains were identified to Garda Damian Walsh by Mr McDonagh’s sister, Bridie Lawlor.

The death was reported to the Coroner, as are all unexpected deaths, and he directed consultant pathologist, Dr Margaret Sheehan, to carry out a post mortem examination.

While perusing past medical records, however, Dr Sheehan discovered that Mr McDonagh had the Hepatitis C Virus, an infectious disease affecting the liver that is spread by blood-to-blood contact.

She pointed out that neither she, nor the staff assisting her, had been warned of this.

She concluded that death was due to a massive traumatic injury to the brain, associated with a significant skull fracture. Pulmonary oedema and bronchopneumonia would have occurred after the injury, she added.

Dr MacLoughlin adjourned the inquiry for a month for the consultant on duty to make a statement, and to appear in person, to explain why a toxicology screening had not been performed on admission, including a blood/alcohol reading, and why mortuary staff had not been advised of the inherent danger posed by Mr McDonagh’s blood.

“This is a serious public health issue,” he said.

“Because I employ the consultant and mortuary technician, it is incumbent on me to ensure that the highest standards of health are afforded to all of these people.”

He advised the large McDonagh family, however, that despite this unresolved matter, a death certificate would be made available within a week.

He concluded that death was due to bronchial pneumonia and pulmonary oedema, as a result of a traumatic brain injury and a fractured skull, sustained in a fall.

“There is no evidence that he was the victim of an assault,” he added.

“A death certificate will be available, but we will call the consultant (on duty) to explain why the lab (mortuary) was not informed, and why an alcohol level was not taken on admission.”

The Coroner has also sought to find out if other hospital staff knew Mr McDonagh had this virus, and were barrier nursing care methods put in place as a result.


Concerns over reopening of Middle Arch on Tuesday



A Galway City Councillor has given a cautious welcome but has also raised concerns over the reopening of the ‘Middle Arch’ beside the Claddagh Basin next Tuesday.

Access was closed to the public last May following requests from the Gardai due to large crowds that had gathered in the days previously amid fears of it becoming a serious health and safety risk.

The concerns were raised by Cllr. Niall McNelis who said that a cautious welcome should be given but that the possibility of closing it in evenings needs to be seriously looked at.

He said “The decision to close it was earlier in year was due to it had become an area where large groups had gathered drinking and had led to calls by locals that it had become a serious health and safety risk. The area also does not have safety barriers and this has led to persons falling into the water in the past.

“Recently there has been a large number of calls made that the area should be reopened and that public space be made available to the public.”

Cllr. McNelis also said that a cautious welcome should be given but that the possibility of closing it in evenings needs to be seriously looked at.

“We can not have the same scenes repeated as we did earlier this year and in previous years. House gardens and Claddagh church grounds were used as toilets and large amounts of litter mainly drink, was left behind. I have met a number of residents this weekend who are not happy with decision and calls have been made by them to have it closed in evenings by City Council and Gardai should assist in clearing area if needs be.

“We do not have enough Garda personnel to have proper policing in our city, we need more resources for the city to tackle and enforce anti social behaviour.

“I have met this week with Gardai and have been given assurances that this will be closely monitored and occasions such as exam results nights, freshers week and good weather will be monitored,” he said.

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Council rows back on ‘reduced delays’ projections for Kirwan junction



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Motorists have described it as ‘a disaster’ and a former mayor has said the project gave very poor value for money, but Galway City Council have this week asked the public to be patient with the revamped Kirwan junction, close to the Menlo Park Hotel.

Since the four-arm signalled junction opened early last week, motorists have complained of traffic queues stretching back to the Quincentenary Bridge and Corrib Park.

And now the Council has rowed back on its consultants’ claims that the junction would increase capacity by 15% and reduce waiting times by 25%.

Former mayor and local taxi driver, Cllr Frank Fahy, told the Galway City Tribune that given the negative impact of the junction on traffic, the €5 million spent on the project represented ‘very poor value’ as regards taxpayers’ money.

“I will admit that the junction is now safer for pedestrians in that they can hit a button to give them a safe crossing, but since it opened there have some very serious traffic tailbacks,” said Cllr Fahy.

However, City Council Acting Director of Services for Transport, Uinsinn Finn, told the Galway City Tribune that the new junction needed time to ‘bed in’ with a familiarisation process.

“The main objectives of this project were to make far safer for pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate, as well as making it safer for motorists too, without impacting [negatively] on the traffic flow,” said Mr Finn.

He added that since it opened – and over the coming few weeks – data on all aspects of how the junction was functioning would be compiled which could involve changes to light sequencing, lanes and peak traffic flows.

One motorist who contacted this newspaper said that the daily “nightmare” journey from the Barna Road to the Headford Road during the morning peak traffic time had added up to 40 minutes to his journey time.

“The two lanes are regularly gridlocked from the junction, back the N6, over the Quincentenary Bridge and back to Corrib Park.

“In the mornings, it’s now easier to go down Taylor’s Hill and into town, past Eyre Square and up Bohermore to get down to the Headford Road.

Councillors were told by consultants in 2017 and again in 2018 – when they voted to proceed with the changeover to a junction – that average delays would be reduced by 25% and junction capacity would increase by 15%.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Man hospitalised following Eyre Square assault



Gardaí have appealed to the public for information into an assault in Eyre Square last weekend which led to a young man being hospitalised.

The victim of the assault – a man in his early 20s from the city area – suffered a cut to his knee and may have had a substance sprayed towards his eyes.

Following the incident – that occurred close to the Eyre Square taxi rank shortly after midnight on Saturday night last – the victim was taken by ambulance to University Hospital Galway.

It is understood that the victim was released later that morning and has made a full recovery. This week, Gardaí are poring over CCTV footage in an effort to try and identify the perpetrators of the assault.

The assailants are understood to have fled on foot after the incident towards St Patrick’s Avenue on the east side of Eyre Square.

A Garda spokesperson has appealed for anyone who was in the vicinity of the taxi rank on Eyre Square between 12 midnight and 12.30am on the Sunday morning (Saturday night) of July 25 last, and who may have witnessed the incident to contact them.

(Photo: the assailants fled on foot towards St Patrick’s Avenue off Eyre Square)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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