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Cork hospital reviews admission policy after teen girl was sexually assaulted by male patient in ward

The assault on a 17-year-old girl by Andrew O’Donovan was only interrupted because his heart monitor began to accelerate.

Image: Shutterstock/Zoran Ras

CORK UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL (CUH) has confirmed that a review of protocols was carried out after a teenage girl was sexually assaulted by a male patient with whom she shared a hospital ward. 

In a statement, the hospital said management had noted the comments of Justice Seán Ó Donnabháin at Cork Circuit Criminal Court. 

“We wish to advise that following this incident a review of protocols for the admission of patients to hospital wards was undertaken. Factors such as accommodation, staffing and patient safety were examined as part of this review process.”

On Tuesday Judge Ó Donnabháin criticised the management of CUH after he was told that a teenage girl undergoing treatment for life-threatening injuries was sexually assaulted by a 63-year-old male patient with whom she was sharing a ward. 

Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that the assault on a 17-year-old girl at Cork University Hospital by Andrew O’Donovan from Butlersgift, Drimoleague was only interrupted because his heart monitor began to accelerate.

A nurse spotted the change in the monitor reading and went to the ward to investigate. She thought that the West Cork man was having a heart attack.

O’Donovan pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the teenager on 14  May 2018. 

Judge Sean O’Donnabhain heard that the 17-year-old victim in the case had sustained life-threatening injuries and was being treated in CUH. She was admitted to a ward in CUH which also contained three adult men.

One of the men was O’Donovan who the court heard approached the victim in the early hours of the morning of 14 May 2018 and sexually assaulted her while she lay in bed.

Unfortunately, she couldn’t reach the emergency call button arising out of the seriousness of her injuries. A nurse disrupted the assault when she came to the ward amid concerns that O’Donovan’s heart monitor was racing.

The court heard of O’Donovan’s schizophrenic tendencies. He has been engaging with mental health services since the 1980s.

In her victim impact statement the teenager recalled the harrowing details of her ordeal.

She said that she hoped her experience would force the paediatric age in hospitals to be raised from sixteen to 18. She said that she was left devastated by the incident. 

Judge Sean O’Donnabhain questioned the management of the ward system at CUH that allowed a young girl to be placed in close proximity to a man with serious mental health issues spanning several decades.

Judge O’Donnabhain said that  it was “a very, very troubling case.”

“You have to question the management of the ward system at CUH that allowed a young girl to be placed in close proximity to a man who was known to have a history of schizophrenic tendencies and a long psychiatric history,” he said.

The judge said the hospital management and supervision involved had to be queried.

He insisted that the hospital management needed to “buck up.”

O’Donovan was charged before Cork District Court with sexually assaulting the teenage girl in Cork University Hospital on 14 May 2018.

Detective Garda Caroline Keogh of the Cork Protective Services Unit gave evidence of arrest, charge and caution.

She said the man denied the charge put to him, replying: “I did nothing to that girl, I just shook her hand.”

However, he pleaded guilty to a sexual assault charge when the case came before the Circuit Court last November.

Det Garda Keogh said the young girl awoke at 5am to discover O’Donovan standing by her hospital bed.

O’Donovan asked the girl her name before suggesting that they go for a drink or the cinema.

After looking at her hospital name bracelet, he then began stroking her arm. He then attempted to stroke her breasts outside her clothes.

When the teenager placed her hand over her chest to protect her breasts, he stroked her stomach outside her clothes. He then stroked her vagina outside her clothing.

When he stopped touching the young girl he said to her: “Promise me you will write to me?”

Judge O’Donnabhain was told the defendant had a long history of mental health issues.

Taking the guilty plea into account and the history of mental illness in the case Judge O’Donnabhain imposed an 18-month prison sentence. He suspended the sentence in its entirety. 

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Olivia Kelleher

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