Northern Ireland

Causeway Hospital in Coleraine criticised for 'serious failings'

Marion Di Maio family picture
Image caption Marion Di Maio's daughter Rebecca said she did "not want to see this happen to any other family"

Repeated failures around the care of a patient in the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine meant she was not given the best possible chance of survival.

That is according to an investigation by the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman.

It found that the Northern Health and Social Care Trust (NHSCT) failed to provide adequate care to the patient, who died in September 2015.

The trust said it apologised unreservedly to the patient's family.

The daughter of the 61-year-old Marion Di Maio, Rebecca Funston, said they "do not want to see this happen to any other family".

She told BBC News NI that the family had been "robbed too early of our mum".

The ombudsman, Marie Anderson, described it as a sad case.

'Limited chances'

She said the patient's limited chances of survival from her illness, liver disease, were dependent on her receiving timely and appropriate care.

The NHSCT said the patient's treatment had fallen short of the accepted standard and it will learn from the mistakes.

Image caption Marie Anderson advised the trust to provide a £10,000 payment to the family

The woman's husband wished to remain anonymous but said he wanted his wife's story to be told so lessons can be learned.

An investigation found "multiple failings".

These included:

  • A lengthy delay in carrying out critical tests and prescribing antibiotics;
  • Inadequate nutrition and hydration during her time in hospital.

An examination of hospital records disclosed that the woman was not referred for review by a dietician until 10 days after she was admitted.

'Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong'

Speaking to BBC News NI, Rebecca Funston, daughter of the 61-year-old patient, explained how things deteriorated for her mother in hospital.

"Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong, and we fought each step of the way to mitigate it any further but at that point it was really too late," she said.

"Quite often we would go to the hospital, as would relatives, and they would see food lying on her tray not being touched.

Image caption Rebecca Funston

"There would be no effort to ensure that mum was actually able to physically swallow the food or physically able to sit up and eat it."

She added: "The trays were quite often just left, and it wasn't unique to mum."

"There were other patients around the ward where trays of food were just left sitting. To the point where my sister would come in in the morning and make sure she at least got a breakfast."

Mrs Funston said while the anger at what happened to her mother had "dissipated" somewhat, the pain of what happened was still raw four years on.

"It's very hard to put that aside and focus on the mum you remember."


With regard to antibiotics, the woman's husband said he had complained to the health trust that a check to see whether his wife had a bacterial infection was not carried out quickly enough.

An independent advisor informed the ombudsman that despite the patient's ill health upon admittance to hospital, a vital procedure known as paracentesis, where fluid is taken from the stomach, was not performed until 12 days after the woman was admitted.

While that procedure was not successful, notes show that doctors felt another attempt should be made, but the procedure was not carried out.

Liver failure

The investigation also found that the patient was not given an antibiotic until almost two weeks after admission.

This was despite three potential sources of infection having been identified earlier and against a background of worsening liver failure.

Ms Anderson told BBC News NI that given the "serious failings", her office has advised NHSCT to provide a £10,000 payment to the family in recognition of the upset, frustration and distress caused.

The Ombudsman suggested an apology be offered by the trust's chief executive and each of the clinicians involved in the patient's care.

In a statement, NHSCT said it had accepted the recommendations and issued a payment and an apology.

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