The family of a man who passed away after suffering with COVID-19, after infecting his entire family, when he was discharged from hospital, have initiated a hopsital negligence compensation action against the Health Service Executive (HSE).
Last weekend, a Sunday newspaper reported that up to 20 other individual are launching similar actions due to contracting COVID19 during routine hospital visits and stays.
Responding to the claims, the HSE revealed that approximately 1,813 patients contracted Covid while being treated in hospitals for routine non-COVID procedures and tests since June 2020. From January 4 to 17, another 846 individuals contracted COVID19 during routine hospital stays – mainly in hospitals located in Dublin, Donegal and Louth. Figures compiled by the Health Services Authority show that there have been 48 COVID-19 outbreaks in Dublin hospitals, 16 in Co. Donegal and a further 13 in hospitals in Co. Louth.
This weekend the HSE said it does not yet know how many people have died after contracting COVID-19 while in hospital, and health authority officials claimed they did not have any information regarding the number of official complaints lodged by patients and families over contracting Covid on routine hospital visits and stays.
A source told the newspaper: “Many people are going into hospital for routine tests and procedures and they are contracting COVID and some of them are even dying. Families are really angry because their relatives are going into hospital with relatively nothing wrong with them and then they are either coming out after being really ill with COVID — or else they are coming out in a box. It has been happening since the summer when the hospitals were quiet and the numbers have being building up since then. There seems to me to be a scandal here and it is not being addressed. And when the dust settles this is going to become an issue because it is clear from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre data that the number of infections in healthcare facilities is quite high. The whole country is closed down so it’s a mystery to me why these figures are so high.”
Another source, familiar with the legal cases being taken against the HSE, informed the newspaper: “There are about 20 cases so far and one of them is being taken by the family of a man who went into hospital for a respiratory issue that had nothing to do with COVID. He ended up getting COVID while he was in hospital and the staff in the hospital told his family that when he was released he would need help from them when he got home. When he got home he ended up infecting all of his family and that meant a mother and six of her children got Covid-19.”
The HSE insisted the high level of COVID infections in the community was to blame for the extraordinary number of people contracting the virus during routine hospital visits. A statement released by HSE said: “In general it is not possible to be certain regarding where and when a person acquired infection with COVID-19. There is extensive testing of people on admission to hospital and while in hospital to help find people with infection as quickly as possible, so that measures can be taken to reduce the risk of spread of infection of others. It is important to note that when community transmission rates are at the level they are, it is inevitable and unavoidable that there will be outbreaks in hospitals.”
One source, familiar with medical negligence cases, commented to the newspaper: “I would doubt whether public policy would be in favour of suing healthcare workers, the very people we are trying to protect in all of this. And I think people who may take these cases may have difficulties trying to prove they got COVID in hospital, whereas you are as likely to get it in the community as you are in hospital.”