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Dying man 'received substandard care' after being brought to Northern Ireland hospital, court hears

By Alan Erwin

Published 29/09/2016

Consultant anaesthetist Margaret Drozdowicz delivered the critical assessment as part of her wider legal action against the Western Health and Social Care Trust.
Consultant anaesthetist Margaret Drozdowicz delivered the critical assessment as part of her wider legal action against the Western Health and Social Care Trust.

A dying man allegedly received substandard care after being brought into a Northern Ireland hospital, the High Court heard.

Consultant anaesthetist Margaret Drozdowicz delivered the critical assessment as part of her wider legal action against the Western Health and Social Care Trust.

Dr Drozdowicz is suing for alleged breach of contract linked to her exclusion from the Erne Hospital in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh in 2013.

At that stage a colleague was no longer prepared to supervise her while restrictions were placed on her professional duties.

She claims a campaign of complaints about her were an attempt to discredit her after she raised issues about theatres being used for private practice during NHS hours and the use of a drug to counteract deep vein thrombosis.

The Trust disputes her allegations, with the court told that an investigation has not uphold her concerns.

There is no suggestion in the case of any harm to patients.

Dr Drozdowicz, a Polish national, became a consultant in 2007 and then the lead in obstetric anaesthesia two years later.

But by 2011 her relationship with some medical colleagues was said to have broken down.

She was subjected to restrictions following a number of complaints from other staff at the hospital accusing her of unprofessional behaviour.

A process to assess her clinical competence and ability to resume working relationships with medical colleagues is understood to remain incomplete.

The court heard details of an incident in November 2013 where a man died after being brought into the intensive care unit.

The 64-year-old, described as a heavy smoker and drinker, was diagnosed as suffering from complaints including pneumonia.

It was alleged that Dr Drozdowicz was raising her voice and frantically waving ECG forms about within the critical care unit.

A nurse was said to have told her to keep her voice down amid concerns the patient's relatives may witness her actions.

Under cross-examination by Patrick Lyttle QC, for the Trust, Dr Drozdowicz denied the alleged behaviour.

"I'm not the person he is attempting to describe," she replied.

A series of criticisms she raised about the incident, including the administering of fluids containing potassium, were examined by a medical director for anaesthetics from an outside trust.

Stressing that nothing was found to back her concerns, Mr Lyttle said: "In other words, a clean bill of health for the medical team here."

But Dr Drozdowicz refused to accept conclusions about how the terminal phase of the man's illness was treated.

"No. It was substandard care," she replied.

Mr Lyttle continued: "You are totally condemnatory, you are critical in the highest degree of the treatment this man received in the Erne ICU (Intensive Care Unit)."

Referring to her criticisms about another consultant anaesthetist, he asked if Dr Drozdowicz had expected the colleague to continue supervising her.

The plaintiff responded: "If you have justified concerns you have to put it; it shouldn't effect personal relationships."

The case continues.

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