A Limerick hospital porter has received €15,000 compensation after a needlestick injury having been pricked by a syringe as he was removing a bag of rubbish
Leo Fitzgerald, 51, sued the Health Service Executive following the incident at University Maternity Hospital Limerick on June 30, 2009. He told Limerick Circuit Court while on duty he noticed a bag of rubbish which had been left on a corridor near the main lifts.
He described how when he put his hand down to remove the bag, he was pricked by a protruding medical syringe which had been concealed in pair of gloves and placed in the rubbish bag.
“It stuck me in the hand between the fingers,” he said adding that he immediately squeezed the wound and forced out the blood in an attempt to minimise contracting any infections.
Following the incident, Mr Fitzgerald attended the Emergency Department at University Hospital Limerick and was out of work for two months as a result of what happened. During cross examination, Mr Fitzgerald said he was wearing ordinary plastic gloves at the time as he had been dealing with domestic waste from the wards and was not clearing up medical or clinical waste from the operating theatres.
Finding in favour of the plaintiff, Judge James O’Donohue said that the primary cause of the accident was someone putting a sharp object in the wrong place and not into the appropriate container as prescribed.
“He (Mr Fitzgerald) didn’t put it in the bag so it was hardly his fault,” he said.
“There is no getting away from that and this decent hard working man had to go to hospital and undergo treatment and for two months he was faced with considerable anxiety,” he added.
The judge awarded €15,000 in damages ordering that €5,000 be paid out immediately.
Quite right too. The judge’s comments seemed spot on!
What we do not know about is what was done regarding an audit of sharps safety and improvement in sharps safety training, including training in safe disposal. Moreover, we do not know whether the hospital has now introduced safety engineered sharps that may reduce the risk of injury, but which could not protect against the idiot who put a used needle into a rubbish sack.