CUH review protocols after sexual assault in ward

CUH review protocols after sexual assault in ward
Andrew O’Donovan from Butlersgift, Drimoleague, Co Cork. Pic: Michael Mac Sweeney/Cork Courts

Cork University Hospital has announced that they reviewed their admission protocols after a recent case whereby a 17-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by a 62-year-old man in a CUH ward.

The girl was in hospital for serious injuries and was put into a ward with the man, who has a long psychiatric history.

In the early hours of the morning in question, he sexually assaulted her.

Because of her physical injuries at the time, she could not reach the panic button over her head.

The only thing that brought a nurse to the room after the incident was the fact that the older man’s heart rate shot up on his heart monitor.

Cork University Hospital issued a statement today, saying a review was undertaken after the incident.

"Management at Cork University Hospital have noted the comments of Mr Justice Seán Ó Donnabháin and wish to advise that following this incident, a review of protocols for the admission of patients to hospital wards was undertaken. 

"Factors such as accommodation, staffing and patient safety were examined as part of this review process."

The accused man, Andrew O’Donovan of Butlersgift, Drimoleague, County Cork, was given an 18-month suspended jail term yesterday for sexual assault – his first criminal conviction of any kind.

O'Donovan pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the teenager. 

In court, Detective Garda Caroline Keogh said the defendant approached the teenager’s bed and touched her breasts and vagina.

When the judge was told that O’Donovan could be named but that the injured party did not want her own name publicised, the judge said it was the name of the hospital – Cork University Hospital – that should be publicised in the case.

"Management of these hospitals would want to be bucked up a small bit," the judge said during the case at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

"This is a very very troubling case. Two admitted patients side by side in a ward, one sexually assaulting the other.

"You have to question in circumstances like this what management was doing. This is a very acute problem in the hospital.

"You have to question about the management of the ward system.

"For this girl to be beside a man with a diagnosed schizophrenic condition who was attending mental health services since the 1980s for anxiety, agitation, euphoria and insomnia. They are inside in a ward side by side.

"There appears to be no system of management or supervision. The only thing that brought it to hospital notice was his heart rate rising and they thought he was having a heart attack.

"This was minutes after the incident happened. You have to question the placing of these patients in this ward together," the judge said.

The survivor, who wishes to remain anonymous, spoke in court yesterday.

"I thought I would be safe in hospital and never imagined I would be in danger.

"When the defendant pulled back the curtain around my bed around 5.30am and entered my cubicle and began to sexually assault me I was petrified and helpless as the call button was above me and I couldn’t reach it due to my injuries.

"I had to leave the hospital only 11 days into my stay due to the incident. I was meant to stay for six weeks.

"From this horrible situation I really hope paediatrics are raised to 18 years of age instead of 16 years," she said.

Speaking about the survivor on Cork's Red FM, Sally Hanlon of Support After Crime Services said: "She doesn't want to be thought of as the girl who was sexually abused. She wants to have her own identity."

She made reference to the sentence adding: "It did surprise me but the judge is aware of the health of the accused. You can never call it. I would imagine they were disappointed but I can't speak for the family."

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