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Simon Harris 'concerned' about care terminally-ill woman received over New Year's weekend

The woman’s daughter, Siobhán Tobin, wrote an open letter to the Health Minister about trying to access out of hours services.

Image: via Shutterstock

MINISTER FOR HEALTH Simon Harris has said that he’s asked the HSE to compile a report into the care of a terminally ill woman.

Maureen Marron, aged 76 and from Bray, located in north Co Wicklow, is receiving treatment for lung cancer. On Wednesday, her daughter Siobhan Tobin told RTÉ’s Ray D’Arcy Show that over the New Year’s Eve weekend, she had to source treatment for her mother herself as GP services were inundated.

There are currently no GP out of hours services for the north Co Wicklow area; local Sinn Féin TD John Brady said that it was the “only large urban area” without this service.

Siobhan said that the gap remained “despite the fact that Simon Harris ensured that it would be available in February 2017″. For some residents in Bray, out of hours GP services in the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown area are available to them, as there is one Bray road that comes under that catchment.

After liaising daily with the local palliative care team who increased her mother’s medication, her mother’s condition worsened in the days before New Year’s Eve.

“On Saturday 30, 10am, my mother began her first five episodes of vomiting blood. I phoned the out of hours GP service in the early afternoon and thus began the wait.

“Seven o’clock in the evening and my mother had not urinated for 24 hours.”

After phoning a nurse that she knew personally, she was advised to follow up with the GP service and that they bring a catheter, which is used to drain fluid from the bladder. But she was told that the GP wouldn’t be there for another few hours.

Siobhan said that a friend of hers was forced to “steal” a catheter kit from their place of work, while the nurse she knew drove to her home to insert the device.

After calling the GP service again, she was told that the GP wouldn’t be available to attend to her mother as there were 147 other patients that needed to be treated.

… I again explained that my mother is a palliative care patient who had been vomiting blood for 16 hours, and if a doctor didn’t present to her that I would ensure it would make the paper and every news programme the following day.

After that, the GP phoned Siobhan to say that he would be at the house within 20 minutes, and her mother received an injection to stop the vomiting.

On New Year’s Day, a different doctor arrived at the house, but refused to give her mother another anti-nausea injection as she had not vomited for hours.

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Siobhan said what would happen when her mother would get sick again in a few hours’ time since the out-of-hours service was so busy. She said that the doctor responded by giving her “a vial, syringe and needle and tells me to do it myself”.

He then leaves.

After Siobhan wrote an open letter to the minister detailing these events, and conducted a number of media interviews on the issue, Harris replied to the open letter to say that he was “deeply concerned” with her account, and once her approval was given, a report would be compiled into the matter.

Minister Harris said:

I am determined to improve services for patients and the issues that you have outlined in relation to the care of your mum are deeply concerning. I have asked the HSE to intervene immediately to find out why this happened.

But Siobhán says that a review isn’t needed, and that all she wants is information on when out-of-hours palliative care will be available for the north Wicklow area.

Harris also said in his reply that there are plans to open six new hospices within the next 2-4 years, one of which will be located in Magheramore, Co Wicklow and is due to open next year.

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