Neil Cormican (81) of Camlin Park, a grandfather of 17 grandchildren died in April 15, 2010 when he was mistakenly given potassium by a junior doctor who had read the wrong medical notes at Antrim Area Hospital. Mr Cormican was being treated at the time for pneumonia.
Within one day of receiving the potassium, Mr Cormican took a cardiac arrest and died. His death was not reported to the coroner’s office by the hospital until May 24, 2010.
Last year, the then Health Minister Edwin Poots told the assembly that Mr Cormican’s death was among 20 cases where the Northern Trust’s response was ‘below standard.’
The family complained there were a number of failings.
The Northern Health Trust sent a letter to the family who ‘apologised unreservedly.’
In the letter the Trust said: “We have dealt with you as a family and your complaint in an unacceptable way - again, for this I offer an unreserved apology.”
Daughter Joan McClelland, however said that the family have been left frustrated since her father’s death and the inquest which took place in 2013. “I feel it’s important to convey why I feel that the system for investigating hospital deaths in circumstances such as my father’s is not independent or robust,” she said. “As a family we wanted to be assured that lessons had been learnt from the death of dad.
She went onto say, “When mistakes were identified in my father’s case, the health trust effectively investigated itself through a series of internal procedures. When the case eventually did go to inquest, the process relied completely on information presented by the health trust.”
At the time of the inquest, John Leckey said a failure to report hospital deaths that require further investigation to his office was a ‘very serious matter’ that could warrant police investigation.
Mr Leckey said: “It may sound callous, but no weight at all should attached to the sensitivities and grief of a family in a situation where the death clearly must be reported.
“The reason for that is quite simple; that a certain category of deaths require to be investigated by the coroner. And the death of Mr Cormican falls within that category.”
A spokesperson for the Northern Trust admitted that the Trust’s handling of the case fell ‘below the standard’ the family should have expected.
“For this the Trust is sorry,” said the spokesperson.
“Following the death of Mr Cormican the Trust worked closely with the family and carried out an investigation.”
The investigation was carried out by health care professionals and chaired by a doctor who was independent of the case.
“The findings from the report were shared with Mr Cormican’s family and the recommendations from the report provided an opportunity to identify learning for the organisation and the trust did learn from its mistakes in the handling of this case. The trust has a more robust process in place for the reporting and reviewing of SAIs.
“Medical staff across the trust liaise directly with the coroners’ office if they have any concerns signing off a patient’s death certificate.”