Protests, pickets and placards are all no good for Patrick’s dilemma

By Maurice Garvey

PATRICK Fitzgerald has visited his wife Anne in hospital every day for nearly ten years now.

After he raised concerns with the HSE over what he saw as lapses in her care, his visiting hours were cut from eight hours a day, to four hours per week (2-3pm Monday to Thursday).

RTE Investigates Troublemakers Patrick and Anne Fitzgerald

RTE Investigates looked into Patrick's and Anne's situation with the HSE. Photo: RTE

On January 5, 2009, Anne (72) slipped on ice outside her Clondalkin home while putting out a bin – a freak accident which resulted in a life-changing brain injury requiring round-the-clock care.

After long spells in Beamount and Peamount Hospitals, Patrick was happy to find an appropriate single room for Anne at the Sycamore Unit in Cherry Orchard Hospital.

However, a request in 2015, sparked the catalyst for a breakdown in relations with senior staff, according to Patrick.

The couple’s plight was one of the cases featured in an October episode of RTÉ Investigates: Troublemakers, about people “daring to challenge” the HSE.

The programme featured a variety of families who asked questions and found themselves in dispute with the health service, claiming they were being victimised for speaking out.

Speaking to The Echo, Patrick said: “Things started well in Cherry Orchard, Anne was getting physiotherapy and music therapy, services we were interested in.

"I was in six to eight hours per day and was amazed at her response to the music. I used to play songs to her before she would settle down for the night.

“In 2015, Anne was due to get a 3pm session. It was 3.15pm, I could see the person who was due to give the session up at the counter talking to another member of staff, so I asked him, but he said ‘nobody told me about it.’ It was on the whiteboard for everyone to see.

“They put that incident down to an altercation. I was told if I didn’t like it, I could take her somewhere else.”

The relationship between staff deteriorated thereafter and Patrick agreed to stay out of Anne’s sessions. “They didn’t want me in a room with her so that’s what I did – it is important she gets therapy.”

Patrick, a former trade union official, started to report other incidents in the hospital, claiming care assistants neglected elderly patients on several occasions.

“I was a member of an advocacy group in there and made complaints – I would like to think that someone would have the guts to do it, if it concerned a member of my family,” he said.

Patrick claims the HSE mounted an “orchestrated campaign” against him, which led to his visiting hours being reduced to three hours per day.

He took to picketing on his own outside the hospital, and this led to his hours being reduced further.

Since the programme, more people have joined Patrick and supported him on pickets, sharing details on the Facebook page Lift the Ban on Patrick and Anne.

There was a mediation process with the HSE but Patrick claims this was a “sham charade” with no gesture of goodwill or negotiation on the table.

“Since the RTÉ programme, there has been no adequate response from the HSE. I wasn’t allowed in for the Christmas party last week. And I’ll get one hour on Christmas Day. There is no let-up.”

Patrick took an early retirement to be beside his wife.

“Before the accident she was fit as a fiddle. Never in hospital, never took an aspirin or pills.

“She lost everything with the brain injury. There is an appalling lack of services in the country for this.

“I just want to improve her quality of life. It has been hell on earth for the last 10 years for Anne.”

A HSE spokesperson said: “The HSE are currently engaged in a mediation process with Mr Fitzgerald. The HSE awaits the outcome of this process.”

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