Taoiseach joins in calls for investigation into teenager’s death in Limerick hospital

The late Aoife Johnston

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar wants a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of a teenager from meningitis who was left waiting more than 13 hours on a trolley at University Hospital Limerick (UHL).

It is understood that Mr Varadkar made direct contact with the HSE in relation to the death of 16-year-old Aoife Johnston from Cronan Lawn in Shannon at UHL last Monday

Aoife, who was a Leaving Cert student at St Caimin’s Community School, became suddenly unwell on Saturday and was taken to the emergency department at UHL which was seriously overcrowded last weekend.

Medical guidelines for acute bacterial meningitis state the condition is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately with intravenous antibiotics and steroids in some circumstances.

The guidelines also state that treatment should not be delayed while awaiting the results of diagnostic tests for the condition.

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However it is understood that Aoife was left for between 13 and 16 hours on a trolley before being given antibiotics to fight the infection.

By then it was too late to save her life and her family believe she did not receive the treatment expected for a patient in her condition.

Speaking to the Irish Independent yesterday, Mr Varadkar said he wanted an inquiry to establish whether Aoife’s death was preventable “done as thoroughly and as quickly as possible”.

“I know that’s what the family expects, and that’s what they have a right to expect,” he said.

“It’s just devastating for the family, particularly at this time of year, and I want to express my condolences to Aoife’s family and friends, and of course to anyone who knew her.”

Responding to the report, Mr Varadkar said a serious incident management team has now been established, and that’s going to review her treatment”.

He added it is important “not to jump to conclusions at this stage”.

“I am a former NCHD (non-consultant hospital doctor) and former GP, and that’s exactly why I wouldn’t jump to conclusions as to what happened in terms of her treatment or care.

“But it is really important that an investigation is carried out and that the case is fully reviewed so we can understand whether what happened was preventable or not and what can be done in the future to improve the situation. So that investigation is going to happen,” he said.