Wednesday, 2 November 1988
Dáil Eireann Debate
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy McCartan gave notice of his intention to raise on the Adjournment the controversial circumstances surrounding the death of a man in Jervis Street Hospital on Sunday, 10 May 1987.
Mr. McCartan: I thank you for facilitating me in raising on the Adjournment the very sad and somewhat controversial circumstances surrounding the death of the late John Creevey of 81, Mount Olive Road, Kilbarrack at Jervis Street Hospital on Sunday, 10 May 1987. It may  appear somewhat dated to seek the time of this House to discuss the circumstances surrounding the events, but as the presentation unfolds I think the House will fully understand the reason it is important for us to be alerted as to what happened in Jervis Street hospital in the period 8-10 May 1987 and the reason it is necessary for us to consider the many questions surrounding this death which are yet unanswered. When I initially sought to raise this matter I referred to the failure and refusal of the Minister to respond, but in the interim period he has afforded me some insight on an informal basis. I appreciate that it is more a failure than a refusal on his behalf and that of his Department to respond to the queries raised.
It is important to outline briefly the facts surrounding the death of Mr. Creevey. He was a man in his fifties who was in good health and had not been seen by a doctor for six years prior to his unfortunate death. On Friday, 8 May 1987 he was found in a semi-conscious condition on the Kilbarrack Road at approximately 11.40 p.m. and was removed from there by ambulance to Jervis Street hospital. I am advised that the journey took approximately 14 minutes. He was received at Jervis Street hospital at the casualty outpatients section. Despite the fact that he was carrying documents on his person, including a bus ticket with his photograph and name, an ESB bill with his name and address, his wages slip with similar details and other items, his wife, Angela was not contacted as to his condition or whereabouts until 1.30 p.m. on Saturday, 9 May 1987. This was some thirteen and three quarter hours later. Mrs. Creevey went directly to the hospital and arrived there at approximately 2 p.m. on Saturday, 9 May 1987, She met a nurse and was taken to her husband, whom she identified to the nurse. At this stage Mr. Creevey was still in the casualty department, resting on a casualty trolley. A young male doctor approached and advised Mrs. Creevey that her husband had vomited and he had “got up blood”.
 An examination had been carried out on him which established he was not suffering from ulcers and the doctor stated that he was unsure as to where the blood came from. It should be stated that Mr. Creevey had no history of illness or difficulties and had not seen a doctor for some six years prior to his admission to Jervis Street Hospital on this occasion. Mrs. Creevey found her husband to be semi-conscious and while he appeared to recognise her he found it difficult to speak. Mrs. Creevey noticed he had difficulty in moving his lips and getting words out.
Some emphasis had been placed on the fact that Mr. Creevey had been drinking and the attention of the staff seemed to be directed in the belief that he was in some way labouring under the consumption of alcohol. It had been suggested to Mrs. Creevey that her husband's condition was due to alcohol consumption, but she realised it was more serious as he showed no indication of coming around or “sobering up”. He was still being detained in an observation ward, off casualty, and had not been fully admitted to the hospital. This was late on Saturday evening.
On Mrs. Creevey's return to Jervis Street Hospital on Sunday, 10 May 1987 she found her husband fully unconscious and unwakeable. This was at lunch time. He was breathing heavily. On demanding to see a doctor she was told that all tests had been carried out on him and that nothing was showing up. Mrs. Creevey asked if her husband's head had been examined as she seemed to notice some bruising over his left eye. This had not apparently been done and an X-ray was immediately carried out.
Later in the evening she returned again to the hospital in the company of a friend and neighbour. Mr. Creevey clearly was not improving. Mrs. Creevey and her friend drew attention to the fact that Mr. Creevey's head appeared to be swollen and in some way distorted towards the  rear. Mrs. Creevey was advised that X-rays taken earlier at her request had shown up nothing. The suggestion was made by Mrs. Creevey's friend that a lumbar puncture should be taken as they felt that something attacking or damaging the brain was at hand. For the second time the hospital responded to the request of a lay person and visitor. The tests were carried out. At approximately 9.30 p.m. on Saturday it was established for the first time that Mr. Creevey was suffering from a massive brain haemorrhage and the hospital authorities proposed removing him immediately to the Richmond Hospital, which was better equipped to deal with his condition.
The following morning, Monday, 11 May 1987 on phoning the hospital Mrs. Creevey was advised that her husband had bled further and had not been removed to the Richmond as had been agreed. She was asked to come to the hospital immediately as things were deteriorating and eventually that day her husband died.
Most of these facts were laid before the Minister in a letter sent by me and dated 29 January this year. Shortly afterwards I forwarded an authority signed by Mrs. Creevey allowing for the facts to be disclosed to me on her behalf, as has been established by the Minister. In the letter of January I raised a number of important queries which required answers. I still require answers to these queries.
In the first place, what caused the delay in Mrs. Creevey's being notified of the whereabouts of her husband and his condition on the night of Friday, 8 May and morning of Saturday, 9 May 1987, given all the personal details and documents carried on his person? Secondly, why was he still in casualty, lying on a trolley, up to the time of Mrs. Creevey's first visit on the afternoon of Saturday, 9 May 1987? Why was it only after her intervention that her husband was fully admitted, X-rayed and examined for brain damage and had a lumbar puncture carried out? Why was so much reliance placed by the medical staff on Mr. Creevey's apparent alcohol consumption in  the face of other obvious medical symptoms and indications — obvious to the lay persons and visitors at Mr. Creevey's bedside? Why was Mr. Creevey's brain damage, which was of huge proportions, not discovered and diagnosed until late on Sunday evening, almost two days after his admission to hospital? Why was Mr. Creevey not transferred to the Richmond Hospital at a much earlier stage in view of his condition and evident symptoms and injuries? More importantly, why was an inquest not carried out into the circumstances of his unusual, untimely and unfortunate death? I understand that even to date no inquest has taken place on this extraordinary affair.
The major question is, why was a fully able-bodied man, who went after work on a Friday evening in May of 1987 for a social drink, taken in these circumstances to Jervis Street Hospital and why ultimately did he die? It is a particularly unusual and unfortunate case, but one which raises very important questions with regard to the overall delivery of medical services, not just at Jervis Street Hospital but indeed perhaps elsewhere throughout the country. It is unfortunate that this type of situation appears to have been recurring. I am particularly interested, as a Deputy of this House, in pursuing, with the full permission of Mrs. Creevey, the unfortunate circumstances surrounding her husband's death. Her question is: “Why did my husband die?” Why was he so poorly attended to and what can the Minister do to help her to understand all this?
I pursued the matter to the floor of the House tonight because having written in January of this year and a number of times by way of reminders to the Minister since then, I was advised on 3 February of this year that he was making inquiries into the matter and would write to me “as soon as possible”. I was advised again on 25 April in exactly similar terms. On 9 May the Minister began to explain some of his difficulties. He indicated that he was making “urgent inquiries”. He said that, as I should be aware, the records of Jervis Street Hospital were transferred to Beaumont Hospital and that that hospital  was not yet in a position to reply to his inquiries. He advised me that he would be in touch with me again when the matter had been finalised. The anniversary of Mr. Creevey's death had passed and no answers had been forthcoming. In June the Minister replied that he would write as soon as possible. Again, in August there was exactly the same response and for that reason, on resumption of the House in this term, I had undertaken to Mrs. Creevey that I would seek the opportunity of a few moments time on the floor of the House to pursue her inquiries through me to the Minister who, I believe, must ultimately be answerable for the events as they unfold in our hospitals on a daily basis.
I do not seek in this intervention to lay the blame anywhere and in particular do not wish to seek to draw any cloud over the difficult conditions under which junior staff, particularly, in our busy casualty hospitals must operate. I believe, nonetheless, that Mr. Creevey's case raises important questions, not just for the bereaved Mrs. Creevey and her family but also for the Minister and for his Department, to establish exactly the conditions operating in our casualty hospitals and departments in the city and elsewhere and to ensure, for him and for all of us, that circumstances are working well within those institutions so that, in particular, there will not be a recurrence of these unfortunate events and that there will not be any more deaths in our hospitals in circumstances similar to Mr. Creevey's case which certainly suggests and demands many answers. I hope that  the Minister can enlighten us on some of these tonight.
Minister for Health (Dr. O'Hanlon): First, I would like to apologise to the Deputy for the delay involved in providing him with an answer to his inquiries in this case. I had hoped that my inquiries would have been completed before now but despite the diligence with which the matter has been pursued in my Department, some of the information required was sent to my Department only a few days ago. I might add that I have a list of 26 different items in chronological order back to 29 January of this year when Deputy McCartan wrote in relation to the case.
The Deputy will, I am sure, appreciate that certain difficulties arise because Jervis Street Hospital has been closed since late 1987. I accept that some aspects of this case are disturbing. I decided to refer the papers to the Attorney General. I am asking him to consider if further action might appropriately be taken, having regard to all the circumstances of the case. I want to assure the Deputy that I will do everything I can to ensure that the family and their representative are facilitated in pursuing any further inquiries they may wish to make. I will be requesting the consultants and the hospital authorities concerned to cooperate in every way possible in ensuring that any information reasonably required is provided.
|Last Updated: 13/09/2010 19:16:23||Page of 220|