Josephine Flood: left state care

THE family of a woman who died in a ditch shortly after leaving a state psychiatric facility says she endured the elements for up to 24 hours before her death.

Josephine Flood's body was discovered five days after she left the St Senan's psychiatric hospital in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford last February.

Her daughter Margaret says her children have still received no explanation as to the circumstances leading up to her death and have initiated legal action.

Last week Margaret was forwarding her mother's medical files and death certificate to solicitors in Dublin with a view to outlining a potential case, she said.

In July, an inquest ruled that Flood (47), a mother of 12, had died of hypothermia.

"She was 12 to 24 hours out in that; that came out in the inquest and it came out that rats had eaten her," said Margaret Flood. "They said that her hand was very bad and on her face and chin. We weren't really allowed to see her but we demanded to see her; they let us but only for a few minutes and then when we went back the coffin was locked down."

Josephine Flood had been referred to St Senan's on Monday 2 February and was discharged the following Wednesday after seeing a doctor. She had just a teddy bear and a small amount of money on her person. On 8 February her body was found in undergrowth near the busy N11 road. It is thought disorientation may have played a part in her death. The exact circumstances surrounding her leaving the facility and dying remain unclear but her family is angry she was allowed to leave. It is believed she departed on foot even though staff members say they had offered her a taxi.

The family have had ongoing tensions with the HSE and, according to Margaret, are currently attempting to get back one of a number of Josephine's children who remain in the care of the state.

Although there was a meeting between health officials and the Flood family, they believe they are being left in the dark as to why their mother was allowed to leave, given her state of mind.

"We had a meeting with them but they didn't explain to us why this happened, they didn't go into details," she said.

The family is also trying to raise the €450 price of a headstone for her grave at Cleariestown Cemetery. "It's not a big one. I have €20 at home in a box with 'headstone' written on it," said Margaret. "We are going to try and get people to help and I will put some more to it myself if I can afford it."