A man who sued a GP and the HSE after his wife died just a day after a blood test showed she had low levels of potassium has settled his High Court action for €850,000.
The court was told that mother-of-four Maureen O’Sullivan, who was in her 50s, should have been sent immediately to hospital after a test showed she had low levels of potassium. Counsel for her widower, Donal O’Sullivan, said the low levels of the mineral were “a recipe for disaster”.
Mr O’Sullivan of Lower Belmont, Crookstown, Co Cork, sued GP Therese Crotty of Main Street, Ballincollig, Co Cork, and the HSE over the death of his wife on November 8, 2011.
It was claimed that on the previous November 4, Ms O’Sullivan had attended Dr Crotty complaining of palpitations. A blood test was taken and sent for analysis at Cork University Hospital. On November 7 the result indicating severe hypokalaemia, a low level of potassium, was telephoned to the GP’s surgery.
It was claimed the GP failed to arrange to admit Ms O’Sullivan to hospital right away on learning she suffered severe hypokalaemia and failed to advise her to attend hospital immediately.
It was claimed against the HSE there was a failure to adequately communicate the significance of the abnormal blood test results to the GP and a failure to have in place or to implement appropriate systems.
It was further claimed the HSE had relied on a clerical officer to communicate the test results that they required urgent clinical attention.
Dr Crotty and the HSE, in a letter read to the court, apologised unreservedly for the part they played in the events leading up to Ms O’Sullivan’s death.
The letter to the O’Sullivan family, signed by Dr Crotty and the HSE, said: “I deeply regret the tragic circumstances that led to the death of your wife, mother and sister Ms Maureen O’Sullivan.
“I apologise unreservedly for the part I played in the events leading up to her death.”
It added: “I am acutely conscious of the pain and suffering which this has caused to you all.”
The court was told liability in the case was admitted in the past few weeks.
Mr Justice Kevin Cross approved the settlement.