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Patient 'too large for ambulance' dies of cardiac arrest

A coroner yesterday recommended that a patient's weight should be specified when an ambulance is called to transport him to hospital.

The coroner for Co Louth, Ronan Maguire, made his recommendation after an inquest into the death of a man heard he suffered a heart attack after two ambulances were unable to transfer him between hospitals because of his size and weight.

The inquest into the death of the patient in hospital found he died as a result of a medical accident.

Noel Martin (62) of Ardee Road, Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, suffered heart failure arising from fluid around his heart on August 18, 2008, at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda.

The inquest heard that doctors at the hospital had not noticed the build-up of fluid when they examined a scan taken the previous night after the patient had suffered kidney failure, although an examination of the scan some months later clearly showed the fluid.

Mr Martin had been waiting almost 12 hours for transfer to Dublin for dialysis following the kidney failure when he suffered the fatal heart attack.

Three ambulances had been sent for the patient -- who weighed more than 120kg and suffered from multiple ailments including morbid obesity, MRSA, diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, arthritis and chronic depression -- but two of the vehicles had been unable to take him because of his size.

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By the time the crew from the third ambulance had placed him on a suitable stretcher, the Mater Hospital in Dublin was not prepared to accept him on the night and as he was being brought back to his room, he went into cardiac arrest and died.

The inquest heard at the time it was not hospital policy to give details of a patient's weight when booking an ambulance.

The coroner said if the fluid had been noticed in the scan it could have been treated, although there might not have been different outcome and he returned a verdict of death as a result of a medical accident.

The coroner recommended that in future a patient's weight be included in the details when ambulances are booked.

Solicitor Roger Murray said the family was pleased with the outcome and felt vindicated by the process which they hoped would benefit others.

"They think that lessons have been learnt -- that there should be accurate and swift reporting of CT scans and radiology and that details of weight be conveyed to ambulances," he said.

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