Search

28 May 2022

VINDICATED: Accused of abusive and threatening behaviour by LUH

Ombudsman orders review of LUH's complaint handling process

Enda Craig vindicated by Ombudsman

Enda Craig vindicated by Ombudsman

Donegal man, Enda Craig, was accused of abusive and threatening behaviour by Letterkenny University Hospital (LUH).

The Ombudsman has now found the Moville man innocent of all allegations.

In addition, the Ombudsman has ordered a review of LUH's overall complaint handling process, by the National Director of the HSE's Quality Assurance and Verification Division.

The Ombudsman said he wanted to ensure the recommendations in the 'Learning to Get Better' report, were being “actively implemented at all levels in the hospital”.

Speaking to Inish Live, Mr Craig explained he had made a one-page complaint concerning abusive behaviour, against a senior staff member of the emergency department (ED) in LUH, on the night of May 11, 2019.

“I was, in turn, accused of abusive and threatening behaviour of the ED staff on the night in question, in a 25-page response from the hospital's manager and director of nursing. LUH's response contained a 'detailed' examination of the hospital's CCTV video footage in which it was claimed that I had, among numerous other reprehensible actions, threatened the Clinical Nurse Manager (CNM) and deliberately trespassed into the plaster room, where ongoing medical procedures to patients were in progress.

“However, when I accessed and examined a copy of the hospital's CCTV footage, no images whatsoever were found to corroborate any of these vile allegations. In fact, they did not exist. 

“Unbelievably, it transpired these CCTV images and numerous allegations were invented by the hospital in an attempt to discredit my complaint, protect the hospital's reputation and blacken my good name and character by portraying me as a common thug.

“Additionally, the wording in a hospital Clinical Incident Report (a legal document) was changed and a re-written version was included in LUH's 25-page response, to add to the thuggish impression of my behaviour and to discredit my integrity.” said Mr Craig.

In his findings, the Ombudsman said: “In addition, in response to a number of questions, the Hospital informed us it is unclear as to which witnesses were consulted and on what basis they were chosen. Furthermore, it emerged a number of key witnesses were not consulted about the complaint.”

Mr Craig added: “Unbelievably, LUH went on to threaten me with the imposition of a 'Patient Hazard Flag' against my medical file based on security grounds. This would have meant, should I have needed to use the hospital's services anytime in the future, I would have been met by the hospital's security staff on arrival.

“The security staff would then have monitored my behaviour during my time in the hospital and would have accompanied me to the door on my departure. In the event of hospital security staff not being available the local Garda Síochána would have been contacted to take their place.

“The Ombudsman's investigation report stated not one of these sordid allegations made against me by the hospital management was true.

“The many unfounded allegations, uncorroborated statements and non-existent CCTV images of my alleged abusive and threatening behaviour had all been invented by the hospital with the sole purpose of discrediting my complaint, protecting the accused member of staff and keeping intact the hospital's reputation.

“No thought whatsoever was given by the hospital management towards the certain mental trauma that these false accusations would have caused to a completely innocent patient.

“I found out later that I was unbelievably fortunate in being successful in accessing an official copy of the emergency department's CCTV footage for the night in question.”

Mr Craig said the CCTV footage, in an pixelated format, clearly showed what actually took place in the Emergency Department.

He said: “It vindicated my behaviour as being completely normal and innocent of all the hospital's vile accusations in every respect. Management stated at a subsequent meeting that I should never have been given the CCTV footage. Lucky me.

“Against this combined weight of senior management I would have stood no chance of a just outcome. In my opinion none of the above mentioned individuals should have any input into future complaint resolutions. For this alone there should be an independent inquiry where these mentioned individuals should consider their positions.”

Mr Craig said, in hindsight, he does not think he is the only patient that was subjected to such “vile” treatment having made a justified complaint.

“I believe that it is only right and proper that an independent historical investigation should be launched to ascertain how deep and for how long this type of mismanagement of patient complaints has been taking place in LUH. It is beyond argument that the ' Complaints Process ' in LUH is completely dysfunctional and not fit for purpose.

“The Ombudsman's final report arrived on December 10, 2021 where he found against LUH and in my favour on all counts, a devastating condemnation of LUH.”

The Ombudsman's report said: “[He] has asked Mr Sean Murphy, General Manager, Letterkenny University Hospital to write to you; apologise to you; acknowledge that your complaint had been poorly handled ; and retract the initial complaint examination report.

“In conclusion, and from our perspective your calm tenacity, and patience, in pursuing matters and seeking improvements has achieved a positive outcome, not just in terms of you receiving an apology, and the retraction of the initial report, but also in the fact that your complaint has provided an opportunity to put things right for other patients and families. It has also had an equally important role to play in improving services and heightening awareness of the importance of proper complaint handling in the Hospital in general.”

Mr Craig said the Ombudsman's statement made this “horrendous” journey worthwhile.

“It has succeeded in rectifying a dreadful wrong to an innocent patient who was maligned without mercy by senior management who let both themselves and their organisation down in so many dreadful and shameful ways,” he said.

Donegal TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said the episode demonstrated sometimes the standard of care in our public services is not what it should be and people have the right to make a complaint so that lessons are learned.

“I hope that in this case, Letterkenny University Hospital learns the lessons from Enda Craig's experience and it makes the necessary changes to reflect this,” Deputy Mac Lochlainn said.

LUH has subsequently informed Mr Craig it was “retracting that letter of response and apologise unreservedly for the factual inaccuracies therein".

The Inish Times requested a comment from Saolta's communications department on Mr Craig's case and the Ombudsman's ruling, however, at the time of going to press, no comment had been received.

 RELATED STORIES

Enda Craig's full statement on the Ombudsman's report into Letterkenny University Hospital 

Vindicated

Accused by Letterkenny University Hospital of Abusive and threatening behaviour

Found innocent of all allegations by the Ombudsman

"Having made a one-page complaint concerning abusive behaviour against a senior staff member of the emergency department in Letterkenny University Hospital (LUH) on the night of May 11, 2019, I was in turn accused, in a 25-page response from the hospital, of abusive and threatening behaviour of the emergency department staff on the night in question. 

"This 25-page response from the hospital's manager and director of nursing contained in part a detailed examination of the hospitals CCTV video footage, in which, it was claimed, I had, among numerous other reprehensible actions, done the following:

'You pointed your finger at the CMN and into her face for a protracted period from 01.58, lasting 34 seconds. The CMN is seen to recoil backwards and lift her hands in a defensive manner.'

"This description gives the distinct impression that the female Charge Nurse Manager reacted in a manner consistent with the defensive actions of someone who felt they were about to be physically struck.

'At 05.03 hours, you emerged from the Plaster Room by the Station Door, but you had not been seen entering the plaster Room by that door. You may have entered via the other Corridor door, transiting a patient care area with patients in it."

"This is giving the distinct impression I had deliberately trespassed into the plaster room where ongoing medical procedures to patients were in progress.

"Subsequently, when I accessed and examined a copy of the hospital's CCTV footage for the night in question, no images whatsoever were found to corroborate any of these vile allegations.

"In fact, they did not exist.

"Unbelievably, it transpired these CCTV images and numerous allegations were invented by the hospital in an attempt to discredit my complaint, protect the hospital's reputation and blacken my good name and character by  portraying me as a common thug.

"Additionally, the wording in a hospital Clinical Incident Report (a legal document) was changed and a re-written version was included in the hospital's twenty five page response to add to the thuggish impression of my behaviour. 

"Also, the hospital's response to my complaint contained numerous unfounded allegations and uncorroborated statements from staff members, who were never interviewed as to what actually happened. Again, all designed to portray me as a common thug and to discredit my integrity.

"Unbelievably, LUH went on to threaten me with the imposition of a 'Patient  Hazard Flag' against my medical file, based on security grounds because of my alleged threatening and abusive behaviour towards the hospital staff.

"This would have meant that, should I have needed to use the hospital's services anytime in the future, I would have been met by the hospital's security staff on arrival. The security staff would then have monitored my behaviour during my time in the hospital and would have accompanied me to the door on my departure. In the event of hospital security staff not being available the local Garda Síochána would have been contacted to take their place.

"At the conclusion of the report the hospital stated: 'abusive and threatening behaviour towards the hospital staff would not be tolerated by Letterkenny University Hospital'.

"As the Ombudsman's investigation report would later state, not one of these sordid allegations made against me by the hospital management were true in any respect.

"The many unfounded allegations, uncorroborated statements and non-existent CCTV images of my alleged abusive and threatening behaviour had all been invented by the hospital with the sole purpose of discrediting my complaint, protecting the accused member of staff and keeping intact the hospital's reputation.

"No thought whatsoever was given by the hospital management towards the certain mental trauma that these false accusations would have caused to a completely innocent patient.

"I found out later that I was unbelievably fortunate in being successful in accessing an official copy of the emergency department's CCTV footage for the night in question.

"The CCTV footage, in an unpixellated format, clearly showed the truth of what actually took place in the Emergency Department and vindicated my behaviour as being completely normal and innocent of all the hospital's vile accusations in every respect.

"Had I not gained access to the hospital's CCTV video footage, I would not have been capable of proving my innocence.

"I would have remained branded a thug accused of the most reprehensible type of behaviour. This included the fact that a senior female member of staff was portrayed as displaying defensive actions as if I was about to physically strike her.

"Management stated at a subsequent meeting that I should never have been given the CCTV footage. Lucky me. 

"It was plain to be seen the hospital believed that they could say and do as they pleased regarding what was contained in the video footage, safe in their mistaken belief that I would never see it. 

"Without the CCTV footage, it would have been my word against a combined raft of hospital senior management, who all came together to sing off the same hymn sheet. They included the clinical nurse manager of the ED, the senior consultant of the ED (the main contributor to the hospital's 25-page response), the consumer affairs and complaints manager, the hospital general manager and the hospital's director of nursing.

"Against this combined weight of senior management I would have stood no chance of a just outcome.

"In my opinion none of the above mentioned individuals should have any input into future complaint resolutions.

"For this alone there should be an independent inquiry where these mentioned individuals should consider their positions.

"I appealed the hospital response (25-pages) to the 'independent' complaints review officer. 

"Suffice to say, I was not entirely surprised that, notwithstanding the incontrovertible evidence I produced, he still thought it appropriate to include in his findings that I should extend an apology to my primary abuser in the Emergency Department.

"This complaints review officer is referred to as 'independent' but it is difficult to accept that proposition as he is employed by the HSE as a manager in the Saolta group of hospitals, of which Letterkenny University Hospital is a member.

"This conflict of interest attached to the review officer's position makes him self-evidently unacceptable and is a major flaw in the patient's complaints process in attempting to access a fair and just assessment of their complaint.

"In hindsight, I am convinced that I am not the only patient that was subjected to such vile treatment having made a justified complaint.

"I believe that it is only right and proper that an independent historical investigation should be launched to ascertain how deep and for how long this type of mismanagement of patient complaints has been taking place in LUH.

"It is beyond argument that the 'complaints process' in LUH is completely dysfunctional and not fit for purpose.

"Being profoundly unhappy with the response from both the hospital and the 'independent' review officer to my complaint, I decided to appeal to the Ombudsman's office in the hope of finally getting a fair and independent assessment of my initial complaint and the response from both the hospital and the internal complaints review officer. 

"To that end I forwarded to the Ombudsman an extensive file of information.

"The Ombudsman's final report arrived on December 10, 2021, where he found against LUH and in my favour on all counts. 

"The following are extracts from the Ombudsman's report where it can be seen I have been completely vindicated:

'1. Summary

'The Ombudsman has now finalised his examination of your complaint.

'In summary, the Ombudsman has asked Mr Sean Murphy, General Manager, Letterkenny University Hospital to

• write to you

• apologise to you,

• acknowledge that your complaint had been poorly handled and

• retract the initial complaint examination report.'

"This is a devastating condemnation of the patient's complaints system in Letterkenny University Hospital and on all of those involved in the response to my complaint. 

"On January 10, 2022, I received a letter from Letterkenny University Hospital where they accepted completely and without question each of the Ombudsman's findings as follows:

LUH said: 'Consequently I would like to formally confirm that I am retracting that letter of response and apologise unreservedly for the factual inaccuracies therein.'

"Of great importance was the Ombudsman's insistence that the hospital's twenty five page response to my initial complaint would be retracted in its entirety.

"It was so completely tainted that none of it was deemed acceptable in any section whatsoever.

"In addition, the Ombudsman included the following points in his findings:

'5. Our View

'The Ombudsman is satisfied that the Hospital has now agreed to apologise to you in writing and to retract the initial 25-page complaint examination report.

'However, given our experience with this particular complaint, the Ombudsman has also asked the National Director of the HSE’s Quality Assurance and Verification Division to undertake a review of the Hospital’s overall complaint handling processes with a view to ensuring that the recommendations in the Ombudsman’s Learning to Get Better Report  – particularly Recommendations 13 to 26 – are being actively implemented at all levels in the hospital.

'In conclusion, and from our perspective your calm tenacity - and patience - in pursuing matters and seeking improvements has achieved a positive outcome, not just in terms of you receiving an apology, and the retraction of the initial report, but also in the fact that your complaint has provided an opportunity to put things right for other patients and families. It has also had an equally important role to play in improving services and heightening awareness of the importance of proper complaint handling in the Hospital in general.

'Finally, thank you for bringing this issue to our attention and again, please accept my sincere apologies for the length of time it has taken to deal with the issues you presented.'

"If for no other reason, this statement from the ombudsman makes this horrendous journey worthwhile.

"It has succeeded in rectifying a dreadful wrong to an innocent patient who was maligned without mercy by senior management who let both themselves and their organisation down in so many dreadful and shameful ways.

"I am delighted that the Ombudsman has seen fit to insist that a root and branch review of the LUH complaints process is to take place.

"There was never any need for this attempted character assassination simply to cover up wrong doing in the first instance and not admit there was a justified case to answer by a member of staff.

"It could have been dealt with successfully in five minutes at the first point of contact.

"It was not easy to stand up and defend myself at a time of great medical vulnerability but it just had to be done for my own sense of justice and to remove the slur it would have left on myself and that of my family.

"Finally, I would like to state that I have met wonderful staff at different times in LUH and have in fact written to the hospital commending both them and their professionalism during my different times there.

"This episode should not reflect in any bad way, nor indeed is it meant to, on LUH or its staff. 

"Things can and do go wrong and that there is an acceptable way to put them right. 

"Crucifying innocent patients in order to hide the organisation's shortcomings should play no part in it.

"I would like to give special mention to the Ombudsman's office for its professionalism in dealing with my review and its fair and honest findings.

"This office has been seen to stand up for the rights of ordinary citizens and to give them courage in the face of unjustified abusive treatment," concluded Enda Craig.
 
 

To continue reading this article for FREE,
please kindly register and/or log in.


Registration is absolutely 100% FREE and will help us personalise your experience on our sites. You can also sign up to our carefully curated newsletter(s) to keep up to date with your latest local news!

Register / Login

Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.

Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.