Protests against closure of Dublin pool

A MOTHER who sued a hospital for €4.5m over complications during the birth of her son has called for greater transparency between hospital staff and patients.

Michelle Fitzpatrick, whose son Paul was starved of oxygen for half an hour during birth and left with severe brain damage, said the system should be more open when procedures go drastically wrong.

Her calls are to be echoed at a conference this week in which a potential obligation for 'duty of candour' among health professionals will be debated.

Paul's parents Michelle and Paul Fitzpatrick found themselves locked in a legal battle lasting a record 59 days, over nearly six years, to find out exactly what went wrong during their son's birth.

Paul, who was born on St Stephen's Day in 2001, sued the National Maternity Hospital through his mother and won, although due to the terms of the settlement Holles Street gave no admission of liability.

The judge said Paul (8) would not have been disabled only for the "substandard and negligent" management of his birth. Michelle said her family was kept completely in the dark. "It's not the life that he was supposed to have. His life was taken away from him by that hospital," she said.

"It's hard and everything is a struggle. He can't do anything on his own; he has severe brain damage."

The middle child of five, Paul has cerebral palsy and requires constant care, a central reason for the extent of the financial settlement.

"I went into labour on Christmas Day. We had no clue that anything was going wrong with the labour; no one was saying anything," said Michelle.

"We thought everything was fine but when Paul was born it was the first time I knew something was wrong because they carried him over to the other side of the room and they were there for about 15 minutes. We were being ignored and didn't know what was going on.

"I was shouting across the room saying is everything okay and I was ignored. I only found out that they were trying to resuscitate him during the court case. We didn't know he was practically dead until the court case."

Three public swimming pools slated for closure cost twice as much to run as private sector pools, it has emerged.

Last week moves to shut pools in Crumlin, Coolock and Sean MacDermott Street, all in Dublin, by August were met with vigorous local protests.

Dublin City Council took the decision because it does not have the money to run the facilities, although this was widely criticised by elected officials.

Cllr Jim O'Callaghan pointed out that income generated by the pools was less than that of similar private operations, yet the cost of running them was considerably higher.

"At the time when the pools needed a doctor, the city council called in an undertaker," he said.

During a meeting of a sub-group to consider the future of the pools, O'Callaghan said he and other elected members were given information on the cost of the facilities compared to other private operations.

"The running costs of the three Dublin City Council pools exceeded these running costs by between 30 and 106%, excluding wage costs," he said.

"Further, the income received by these private pools grossly exceeded that of the three pools in question."

He said that no effort had been made to reduce running costs, particularly the €85,000 annual lease on the Coolock pool.

"The decision to close the pools was made without proper consideration being given at meetings of the sub-group to whether savings in the budget could be achieved elsewhere," he said. "The pools in question are in areas where people, particularly children, struggle economically. The fact that they are loss makers is not a compelling reason to have them closed."