Belfast Telegraph

Delay in death certificate leaves family unable to lay beloved grandad (90) to rest

Grieving grandson tells of anguish after Lurgan pensioner's funeral stalled over paperwork

By Claire O'Boyle

A bereaved family has hit out over GP shortages after they were left in limbo for days unable to bury a beloved grandfather.

Vincent McGibbon died on New Year's Eve, but a death certificate could not be issued until late yesterday by staff at under-pressure Portadown surgery Bannview Medical Practice.

Without a death certificate, no arrangements could be made for the 90-year-old's funeral and his heartbroken family could not begin to grieve.

His grandson, Gareth McGibbon (31), told the Belfast Telegraph that it has been a distressing time for the family.

"Not only losing our granda, but having this mess thrown on top. Granda died on Saturday, so he should have been buried on Tuesday. Instead there was this huge hold up," he said.

"We couldn't start to mourn and instead spent three days chasing people up, desperately trying to find out if and when we'd be able to make arrangements."

Grandfather-of-seven Vincent lived independently until 18 months ago, when he was diagnosed with vascular dementia. It was then that the retired grocer moved from his home in Lurgan to Rosemount Care Home in Portadown.

After developing a chest infection in the care home last month, Vincent was put on a course of antibiotics on December 20, but when his condition deteriorated after three days, a GP from Bannview Practice recommended he should be admitted to Craigavon Area Hospital.

He was discharged back to the nursing home on Boxing Day, but was in hospital once again on December 28 for a night after being seen again by a GP. He was back at the care home the next day, where his condition continued to decline.

"A locum GP from Bannview saw him the day before he died and said it was now end of life," said Gareth.

"But the doctor was a locum from Scotland and he was going back there the next day, the day granda died."

Mr McGibbon was surrounded by his family when he passed away on New Year's Eve.

"That was good we were there, but everything that came after that was a disaster," said Gareth.

"The out-of-hours doctor could not issue a death certificate because he'd not seen granda before. The following day, we were told it would be delayed because it was a Sunday and then we were looking at a Bank Holiday. Even on Tuesday morning, no one from the GP practice could help because they hadn't been able to get through to the coroner, and they had then been busy. They are just too overstretched.

"It should have been straightforward. He was a 90-year-old man. He died of natural causes. But instead of being straightforward, it's been an extremely difficult and stressful few days for all of us."

Finally, following repeated calls from the family and the Belfast Telegraph, the paperwork was completed yesterday afternoon and Mr McGibbon's remains were returned to his family. His funeral is to take place tomorrow morning.

"We're so relieved we can finally start to mourn and give granda the wake he deserves," said Gareth.

A spokesperson for the Lord Chief Justice's Office said: "The death occurred on December 31, 2016 and was reported to the coroner on January 1, 2017. No further action could be taken by the coroner until the GP practice reopened on January 3.

"On contacting the surgery on Tuesday, it was agreed with the coroner that the doctor could issue a proforma letter which subsequently allows the family to register the death without the need for a post-mortem examination.

"The family funeral director has been advised accordingly."

A spokesperson for the Health and Social Care Board said that the board does not comment on individual cases.

No one from Bannview Medical Practice was available for comment.

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