asked the Minister for Defence why an army private (name supplied) who became ill on 6th December, 1966 at Renmore Barracks, Galway, was treated for gastric influenza when in fact he was suffering from appendicitis; why he was transferred to Athlone for hospital treatment and from there to the St. Bricin's Hospital, Dublin in order to undergo an operation for appendicitis with perforated appendix; if, in view of the fact that this man died on 17th December, 1966, he has caused a full investigation to be made into all aspects of this matter; and, if so, with what result.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Death of Army Private.
The person referred to by the Deputy was treated for gastric influenza at Dún Uí Mhaoilíosa, Galway, because this was the illness diagnosed by the Army medical officer who examined him on 6th and 7th December, 1966. Following the examination on the latter date the medical officer arranged to have the patient conveyed by ambulance to the military hospital. Athlone. This was done because of the nature of the illness as diagnosed and because it is the policy of the Army medical authorities to avoid as far as possible undertaking treatment in a barracks of any condition which is likely to keep a patient in bed for more than two or three days. This policy arises from the practical difficulties of feeding, nursing, maintaining a comfortable temperature, etc., in an Army billet.
While the patient had no symptoms of appendicitis when examined by the medical officer at Dún Uí Mhaoilíosa the medical officer who examined him after he had arrived in Athlone found that symptoms had by then developed which suggested that he might be suffering from appendicitis. The latter officer, accordingly, arranged for the transfer of the patient to St. Bricin's Hospital, Dublin, for operation if considered necessary by the authorities of that hospital.
The patient was examined within minutes of admission to St. Bricin's Hospital by the emergency medical officer on duty who immediately summoned the assistant surgeon. These two doctors diagnosed acute appendicitis and arranged for urgent operation.
All aspects of the matter were fully investigated and it was established that the person in question received appropriate treatment at all stages and that there was no neglect on the part of any of the medical officers concerned.
Could the Minister say why this man was not treated in Galway Hospital?
All patients are subject to the treatment afforded to them by the local medical officer. He made his decision and he sent the patient to Athlone for the reasons which I have given.
Reasons of economy?
Surely that must be the only matter considered when the man was sent the distance he was sent?
Did the Minister see the letter which was sent by his own personal secretary to the deceased's father when the father sought to inquire about the death?
The Deputy is asking me about a letter sent by my personal secretary. I do not know whom he means.
By his private secretary—a letter to the deceased's father.
I would require notice of that question. I would need to have a look at the files.
Is the Minister aware that when this man wrote to the Minister, the secretary replied and not as much as one word of sympathy was expressed to the deceased's father on the death of his son? I think that an expression of sympathy from the Army was called for and that it should now be made.
This is an altogether different question from that which was put down.
It is a very important question for the relatives.
If, as the Minister states, it was the policy of the Army to transfer this man to hospital in Athlone where the Minister says that appendicitis was diagnosed, why was the operation not performed in Athlone since the Minister's statement says that when the patient arrived at St. Bricin's Hospital he needed a very urgent operation? Surely this should have been done at least in Athlone?
In Galway the doctor did not diagnose appendicitis at all. He diagnosed that the man had gastric flu and sent him in the normal way to Athlone. The doctor in Athlone examined him and came to the conclusion that in the meantime symptoms had developed which suggested that he might be suffering from appendicitis and he sent the patient to St. Bricin's Hospital where there are facilities for operations.
Are there no facilities in Athlone for appendicitis operations?
There are no facilities there now but there were at that time for minor operations.
Why was the operation not carried out there?
That is a matter for the medical officer.
He was only a private soldier.
That is not fair at all. The death certificate does not show that the man died from appendicitis. I want to add for the information of the House that after the operation, a consultant surgeon was called by the military authorities into St. Bricin's Hospital and visited this man on several occasions. The consultant surgeon has given an opinion.
Will the Minister say what the man died from?
Is the Deputy making allegations against the Army doctors?
Enterocolitis, secondary to acute perforated appendicitis.
Is it not a fact that he died from peritonitis?
I am not a medical man.
I would ask the Minister to investigate this in the interests of the family.
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I should like to give notice of my intention to raise this matter on the Adjournment.
The Chair will communicate with Deputy Pattison.