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HSE Admits Liability for Inadequate Treatment of Meningitis

The HSE has admitted liability for the case of inadequate treatment of meningitis in a young boy who was left paralysed due to the negligence.

In March 2004, Matthew McGrath was just seventeen months old when he was admitted to Wexford General Hospital. His parents brought him to hospital when he started displaying symptoms such as vomiting and drowsiness. After initial medical examination, he was diagnosed with Haemophilus Influenza Type B. This is an established precursor to meningitis, and as such, Matthew should have been given antibiotics. However, these were never offered to him.

Matthew was kept in hospital overnight under observation. His condition severely deteriorated. He then went into shock, and in spite of the medical guidelines advising against it, a lumbar puncture was performed by medical staff at the facility. This provided evidence that Matthew did indeed have meningitis. However, in spite of medical intervention, Matthew is now permanently paralysed due to compression of his spinal cord.

Matthew cannot move any of his limbs and is reliant on a ventilator to breathe. He spent the next two years in hospital, until his parents finally were able to take him home from hospital and take him into their full-time care.

Cathy McGrath sought legal counsel, and made a claim for compensation on her son’s behalf. In the claim, it was alleged that due to the failure in care-both for the lack of antibiotics and the inappropriate lumbar puncture-Matthew was left severely disabled. They argued had Matthew received adequate treatment upon his admission to Wexford General Hospital, he would not be much healthier than he is now.

An investigation launched into the incident. After the results were issued in a report, the HSE admitted liability for the negligence of medical staff at the facility. After issuing an apology, an interim compensation settlement of €3.7 million was agreed upon by the two parties. As Matthew is a minor, it first needed to be approved by a judge to ensure it is in his best interests.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross heard the case at the High Court in Dublin. He was detailed the circumstances of the case, and approved the interim settlement. The case was then adjourned for five years such that an assessment of Matthew’s future needs could be conducted.

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