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Family's anguish after dad Charlie Patterson left on trolley for hours before death in Belfast Royal hospital

By Allan Preston

Published 13/09/2016

The inquest into the death of Charlie Patterson took place at Laganside courts yesterday with (from left) his daughter Anne Drain and his grand daughters Grainne and Bronagh Boyle in attendance
The inquest into the death of Charlie Patterson took place at Laganside courts yesterday with (from left) his daughter Anne Drain and his grand daughters Grainne and Bronagh Boyle in attendance
Charlie Patterson

The daughter of a Dunmurry pensioner said she has been "haunted" after her father waited for hours in a hospital - scared and alone on a trolley - before his death.

Charlie Patterson, a grandfather and retired painter and decorator, was 86 when he died in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital on January 30, 2013.

A hospital investigation found there were serious failings in his care, such as waiting too long for a CT scan and delays in receiving the proper medication, Octaplex.

Mr Patterson had fallen and hit his head while at evening mass in St Peter's church in Belfast at around 6pm on January 27.

His family were not contacted until 2am, eight hours later. By this point he had suffered a serious internal bleed of the brain and never regained consciousness. He died, surrounded by his family, three days later.

His daughter Ann Drain, joined in court by her nieces Grainne and Bronagh Boyle, said the family felt "robbed" of his final hours and the chance to say goodbye.

A statement from Ms Drain was read out by the court clerk.

"He was 86-years-old and alone in a scary place and must have been confused about what happened to him," she said.

"Why did no one phone his next of kin when his details were found on the hospital records? It nearly killed us all to think of him without us for that length of time."

"Charlie was transferred to a ward before 4am. We kept a 24/7 vigil by his bedside and held his hand till he took his last breath and slipped away on the afternoon of January 30."

Ms Drain said her father was always seen in his flat cap and enjoyed having his children and grandchildren around him.

She said learning of the failings in his care a year later, through media reports, was like suffering another bereavement.

"As a family this haunts us," she said.

"We were robbed of those last few hours with him."

Grainne Boyle also paid tribute to her grandfather in court.

"My sister and I lived with him for a long time after my grandmother's death," she said. "He said he was fine but he was lonely and he loved company. Later, we still had dinner with him every day."

She added: "He was very independent, he was out every day. Bronagh and I remarked he was fitter than us."

A statement released by the family after yesterday's inquest read: "The unacceptable delay in treatment in this case and others demonstrates that we have a National Health Service under unsustainable pressure which has resulted in seismic failures in the treatment of patients.

"The politicians need to try harder to get the resources to ensure that the failings which contributed to the passing of Charlie Patterson do not happen again."

Paul McCann of Madden and Finucane solicitors said: "The family welcome the change in policy by the Belfast Trust in dealing with head injuries as a result of this case, in that there is now a speedier assessment process which leads to earlier and potentially lifesaving treatment."

In his findings, Coroner Joe McCrisken stated: "A three hour and 36 minute wait in the emergency room - it is my view that for an 86-year-old gentleman to have to wait that long in triage is nothing short of deplorable.

"I think that is accepted by the trust."

He told the family they had acquitted themselves with great courage and that Mr Patterson would have been proud of their persistence.

"They were robbed of precious time with their grandfather in his last hours. It's so regrettable that had happened," he said.

He said he was pleased that the systems in place had changed and said he was "looking forward" to a tour of the RVH's new emergency facilities.

He continued: "I hope you've got a great many of the answers and some satisfaction in knowing that big changes have occurred directly as a result of Charlie's death."

The changes include a simplified and faster procedure for treating patients with Mr Patterson's symptons, as well as keeping a supply of the drug Octaplex available without delay in emergency rooms.

The clinical director for the RVH's emergency department, Dr Ian Wiggins, told the court that five doctors were on duty on the night of Mr Patterson's death.

He admitted that was not enough to meed demand, but said that the number had now been increased to 13.

Belfast Telegraph

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