An inquest into the death of a patient in University Hospital Galway who apparently choked on a piece of red meat has been adjourned to establish how the elderly man on a moist mince diet could have been served the wrong meal.

Galway West Coroner, Dr Ciarán MacLoughlin adjourned the hearing until next year so that a former catering employee on duty that day could be located to give evidence.

The Coroner’s Court last week heard three hours of evidence into the death of Patrick Monaghan (85) of St Jarlath’s Court, Tuam, who was found dead in a chair beside his hospital bed on October 4 last year shortly after eating his lunch.

His lunch tray was still on his bed trolley and staff noticed it was a beef dinner though a sign over his bed stated he was only to be fed ‘moist mince meals’ which would not have any chunks of food in them for easy digestion.

However, it transpired that the late Mr Monaghan may have inadvertently been given the wrong tray carrying the wrong type meal on the day.

Mr Monaghan had been in hospital for four months at the time and had been waiting to be discharged once a bed was available in a nursing home. He had had difficulty swallowing food which is why he was on a modified diet.

Consultant Pathologist, Dr Sheena Phelan, told the Inquest that the cause of death had been asphyxia due to a piece of food obstructing his larynx. She had found pieces of red meat and carrots measuring about three to four centimetres.

Annemarie Burke, Clinical Nurse Manager on St Dominick’s Ward, remembered that the patient had been given a regular dinner on September 24 and when he couldn’t digest it, the catering staff had been reminded of his modified diet.

In the course of her evidence, she remembered seeing Mr Monaghan slumped on a chair beside his bed and that his tray was still on his bed trolley. Later she remembered noting it had contained the remnants of a regular beef meal.

However, at the time she didn’t make the connection as she hadn’t known or expected him to have died from choking.

Source: Connacht Tribune