HSE send letter to dead women cancelling Louth appointment

THE Health Service Executive (HSE) has written to a woman warning her that her physiotherapy appointment in the Louth County Hospital will be cancelled if she does not reply within three days.

THE Health Service Executive (HSE) has written to a woman warning her that her physiotherapy appointment in the Louth County Hospital will be cancelled if she does not reply within three days.

This is despite the fact that the woman died five years ago without ever receiving the physiotherapy treatment that her consultant said she needed.

The HSE said the deceased woman was being treated under a new initiative that was developed to reduce waiting times. However, the woman was originally referred for treatment in August 2005.

The woman's children, who asked not to be named, say they are deeply upset by the letter and its bullying tone and insist the physiotherapy treatment would have made a huge difference to their mother's quality of life.

Last week the HSE wrote to the woman, who died in February 2006, to inform her that an appointment had been arranged for her to attend physiotherapy on January 18 2011 at 3pm at Louth County Hospital.

It took the HSE over five and a half years to arrange the appointment, as the woman was originally referred for treatment on August 23, 2005.

The woman was referred for treatment after suffering a failed spinal operation in the 1970s. She suffered from severe back pain until she died of a related illness in 2006.

The Louth County Hospital wrote to the woman saying a new system will mean she is treated more quickly.

They said: "In an effort to reduce waiting times and therefore improve patient care, we have developed a new initiative called the Direct Physiotherapy Triage Service."

But rather than showcase the HSE's efficiency, it has done a better job of demonstrating the huge public waiting lists, with patients dying before they can be treated.

"I have reviewed your letter (sent in August 2005) and feel you would benefit from physiotherapy before attending for an orthopaedic appointment," continued the letter.

Two letters enclosed with the notice were warnings not to miss the appointment, which could lead to being thrown off the waiting list.

In a large bold type and with spelling mistakes, the HSE warned: "If you fail to attend for your appointment and do not contact us with three working days you will be discharged off the waiting list."

The family of the woman said they were extremely upset with the letter, as their mother died of complications arising out of her back condition. The letters served as a painful reminder, they said.

A spokesperson for the HSE said: "Louth County Hospital has extended its sincere apologies to the family involved. Hospital management have said every effort will be made to be more vigilant in future and apologised for the error."

However the HSE denies there is a five-year waiting list for physiotherapy treatment at the Louth County Hospital.