The family of the late Declan Sweeney, from left, his wife Noleen, son Ronan and daughters Sonia and Michelle. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin


Our Roger Murray SC recently represented the family of the late Declan Sweeney at an inquest into his death. Mr. Sweeney (78), from Newbridge, Co. Kildare was a retired vice-principal of Synge St. CBS. The inquest heard that his sudden and unexpected death in Tallaght Hospital was linked to the “double whammy” of his discharge from a high dependency unit coinciding with the start of the Christmas holiday period.


Family Criticised Care Patient Received


Mr. Sweeney’s family criticised the care he received and the response of the medical staff to concerns the family raised about his deteriorating health in the days leading up to his death. Declan Sweeney was discharged from the high dependency unit on Friday, December 21 2018, and his condition was not reviewed by a hospital consultant “of any description” for five days.


Roger Murray SC, on behalf of the family, called for better governance and oversight of consultant cover over holiday periods. The coroner noted that a consultant providing cover for a colleague could not be expected to provide the same level of care as the workload was, effectively, being doubled.


Inappropriate Communication


Roger Murray SC submitted that a narrative verdict would best reflect the complexity of the case, and ought to capture the gaps in Mr Sweeney’s treatment. He said a senior doctor at Tallaght Hospital had accepted in evidence that inappropriate communication by the staff on December 21st had resulted in a missed opportunity to provide proper planning for Mr. Sweeney’s care. Mr Murray told the court that the patient’s family were “physically looking in corridors” for answers having been “left in the dark” about their father’s condition.


Narrative Verdict Returned


Returning a narrative verdict, Dr. Gallagher recorded that the patients’ family had been extremely concerned about his care throughout his hospital stay and that his primary care team had not seen him until the day of his death. She noted that it had been difficult to establish who was responsible for the care of Mr. Sweeney over the holiday period.

Noting that the Sweeney family did take some solace from the fact that following the death of Declan Sweeney changes had been introduced at Tallaght Hospital, the Coroner went on to say that these changes did not adequately address consultant cover. She issued a formal recommendation that locum cover should be obtained where appropriate.

Further, she recommended that patients and families should be formally and clearly told of who is in overall charge of care.


Statement from Ronan Sweeney


Speaking after the verdict Ronan Sweeney, Declan’s son– a GAA All Star for Kildare and Moorefield GFC – said the family welcomed the verdict and recommendations. “Our Dad was in the public service for 40 years as a teacher, helping people all that time. We just felt that he was left down in his hour of need by the system, not necessarily by anyone individually. The whole purpose of this was to ensure that this doesn’t happen to another family and we’ve gone a long way to doing that”