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Mayo hospital apologises to patient made to drink mouthwash instead of water

The incident occurred at Mayo University Hospital on 12 June.

The incident occurred in the intensive care unit.
The incident occurred in the intensive care unit.
Image: Shutterstock/napocska

A PUBLIC HOSPITAL has apologised to the family of a critically ill patient who was mistakenly given mouthwash to drink instead of water while receiving treatment in intensive care.

The glass containing a chemical antiseptic was held to the patient’s mouth by a consultant, and a quantity of the liquid was ingested before the mistake became apparent.

The incident that occurred at Mayo University Hospital (MUH) on 12 June was the subject of a formal complaint, which prompted an internal investigation at the hospital.

The patient’s family were notified this week that the investigation had concluded and that new practices have been introduced to prevent similar incidents from occurring in future.

In a letter to the complainant, hospital management apologised for the incident that occurred in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where the patient was “inadvertently given mouthwash to drink instead of water”.

It also noted that the consultant involved in the incident had already apologised to the patient and his family.

A review carried out by the hospital’s pharmacy department established that the main ingredient in the mouthwash that was administered was chlorhexidine – a chemical antiseptic.

“Since this incident, new practices have been implemented to prevent a reoccurrence,” stated the letter signed by general manager Catherine Donohoe and associate clinical director Dr Fionnula Lavin.

“The clinical nurse managers in ICU and Pharmacy have implemented an oral mouth care guideline of one mouth care episode per single use pour of mouthwash. Any remaining mouthwash should be discarded,” they wrote.

The learning from this incident will also be shared across the hospital. It is very unfortunate that this incident occurred and we are sorry for the distress that this event caused.

The original complaint stated that the patient, who is in his 40s, had not consumed liquid by mouth for some time prior to the incident. He was dehydrated and therefore gulped the liquid that was handed to him by the doctor.

He began drooling and became distressed before vomiting shortly afterwards. He subsequently suffered from pain, dehydration and fatigue as a result of the mistake, according to the complaint.

He had been admitted to ICU suffering from advanced liver disease. It is understood that he continues to receive treatment as an inpatient at MUH.

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Darragh McDonagh

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