Woman awarded €5m over negligence at Sligo hospital


14 December 2017

The family of a 60-year-old woman left almost completely blind and partially paralysed due to a delay in diagnosing a brain aneurysm have said they hope a court settlement will allow her to spend Christmas next year at home.

Bernadette Surlis, from Drinaum, Strokestown in Co Roscommon, is confined to a wheelchair and is in a nursing home.

The High Court was told her "only remaining ambition" was to go home.

The court approved a settlement of €5 million in her action against the Health Service Executive over negligence in her care and treatment at Sligo General Hospital in November 2013.

Senior Counsel Michael Cush said it was hoped the settlement in this "very sad case" would mean Ms Surlis' ambition would be achieved.

He told the court that liability was admitted.

Mr Cush said it was accepted that had Ms Surlis been appropriately and promptly diagnosed and treated, she would not have suffered the injuries.

Ms Surlis went to the hospital on 3 November 2013 complaining of a headache, vomiting and a dilated pupil in her left eye.

She was assessed as "Category 3" in triage, meaning she was not treated as an immediate emergency and was left waiting for three hours. 

The court heard she was investigated for glaucoma and discharged.

Ms Surlis went back to hospital the next day when the severity of her condition was appreciated for the first time, the court heard.

She was transferred to Beaumont Hospital on 5 November, but the court was told it was too late at that stage as she had suffered a haemorrhage and permanent brain injury.

She will need full-time care and Mr Cush said the consensus among experts was that her condition will only marginally improve.

She is aware of her condition and has difficulties communicating but can do so with her family's help.

The court heard that if she had been moved to Beaumont when she first went to hospital, she probably would have been treated successfully and recovered fully.

Ms Surlis has three adult children and four sisters living locally. 

The court heard the entire family shares her determination to go home.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross said the settlement was a "reasonable and very good one".

He said the money would provide the best compensation possible for Ms Surlis to live out her life, hopefully in her own home.

Her children, accompanied by the family's solicitor, Damien Tansey, said it had been a long and difficult few years since 2013.

They welcomed the settlement and hoped it would ensure she would spend Christmas 2018 at home. 

Carla Surlis said they had lost their mam and what had happened had torn apart their whole family.

She said it had been a long few years without her and once she was home it would be better.

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