Investigation into teenager’s death at Limerick hospital has yet to start

The late Aoife Johnston

A STATEMENT from the University of Limerick Hospitals Group that a team had been established to investigate the death of a 16-year-old schoolgirl from meningitis has been contradicted by the group’s Chief Clinical Director who says that the team has yet to be appointed.

Following the death of Aoife Johnston from Cronan Lawn in Shannon at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) on December 19, it  was reported that she was left dying for more than 13 hours on a trolley in the hospital’s overcrowded emergency department.

Responding to a query from the Limerick Post on December 23, a spokesman for the UL Hospitals Group confirmed that a Serious Incident Management Team had been established and a comprehensive investigation will take place.

This was also the view of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar who told reporters on December 23 that his understanding was that a Serious Incident Management Team had been established to review the case.

“It is really important that an investigation is carried out and that the case is fully reviewed so that we can understand whether what happened was preventable or not, and what can be done in the future to improve the situation,” Mr Varadkar said

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However, in an interview with RTÉ Radio’s ‘News at One’ last Tuesday, UL Hospitals Group Chief Clinical Director Professor Brian Lenehan said it was his responsibilty to commission the review and that it will start very shortly.

“The adverse event, as we call it, will be investigated in line with the national HSE policy and we will follow the incident management framework.

“I am the chief clinical director, so I’m ultimately responsible for patient safety quality and it will be for me to commission that review which will start very shortly.

“The terms of reference ask for a result from that review within a three month period. We will  involve the family and all of those who were involved in the care (of Aoife Johnston) in that review.

“It will be chaired by someone who is external to our hospital group and the results will then be shared with the family but I can’t really speak to the specifics at this stage out of respect to the Johnston family,” Professor Lenehan added.

Questioned by the Limerick Post, a spokesman for the UL Hospitals Group refused to reveal the make-up of the Serious Incident Management Team. He was also unable to state when the team was established and if their investigation was the only inquiry being held into incident.