Serious Charges Against Lurgan Workhouse Nurses.
The Belfast News-Letter,
Saturday, December 8,
At the weekly meeting of the Lurgan Board of Guardians on the 6th inst. – Mr. Henry Mathers, J.P. (chairman), presiding – a long letter was read from Mrs. Rebecca McCann to the following effect : –
On the 3rd ult., at the request of Dr. Brownrigg, of Moira. Mrs. McCann brought one of her children, aged five years, who was suffering from scarlatina, into the workhouse fever hospital. On arrival at the workhouse between seven and eight o’clock they were put into a small ward and about nine o’clock she was given a teacupful of milk for the child. About 9.30 Nurse Jelly came into the ward and ordered them to bed, asking no question as to what the child required, and she did not return until between seven and eight o’clock on the following morning. The child cried all night for drink, but Mrs. McCann had none to give her, nor did she know where to go for some. On the following morning Mrs. McCann told Nurse Jelly about the child crying all night for a drink, but the nurse paid no attention to this, and ordered her to wash the child and make the bed. Shortly after nine o’clock Nurse Wallace came in, and Mrs. McCann told her the child was worse, and, as she was very feverish, asked her for some castor oil. The nurse asked where she came from, and when she was told said that Dr. Brownrigg was very good at sending in everybody, no matter who or what they were, while he slipped about with his hands in his pockets. The nurse also asked her if she thought she was coming in there to get all she wanted, or could she not have kept the child at home. Mrs. McCann then asked her for milk, but got no reply. About ten o’clock on that morning the milk came in, so that the child was without milk from eight o’clock on the previous evening.
On the 4th Nurse Wallace came in at eleven o’clock with the doctor, and Mrs. McCann complained of the cold, as there were a number of panes broken in the window. She was then removed to a large ward. Dr. Darling came back that night and attended the child, and she heard him instruct Nurse Wallace to give the child medicine every four hours, but she only received medicine three times in four days. Nurse Jelly took the child’s temperature about ten o’clock that night, and Mrs. McCann asked her had Nurse Wallace instructed her about the medicine. She said she had, but she did not think the child would have any call for it. The nurse never came back till between seven and eight o’clock in the morning. On the same evening Nurse Jelly returned on duty about eight o’clock, when she stopped for about five minutes, and did not return again until between seven and eight o’clock next morning. That evening Nurse Wallace came in about three o’clock, and Mrs. McCann asked her about the medicine, and she replied that it did not matter whether the child got it or not.
On Tuesday evening Nurse Jelly give the child a cold sponge about nine o’clock. She left, and as the child shivered and got cold, there being no fire or coal. Mrs. McCann went down to the sitting-room and told Nurse Jelly, who gave her a hot water jar. The nurse did not visit the ward that night, nor until next morning. When the doctor visited the ward next morning he told Nurse Wallace to give the child a beaten egg and whisky and milk every two hours, as her strength must be kept up. About half an hour after, Mrs. McCann went to the nurse and told her the child wanted a drink, asking for the whisky and milk. She said Nurse Jelly was away, and had the key with her, but she give her a beaten egg. Mrs. McCann told the nurse that she had heard the doctor’s instructions, and they must be carried out or else she would report it. She offered to pay for the whisky if the nurse would send for it. Mrs. McCann concluded her long letter with an assertion that hers was not the only case of neglect that occurred during her residence in the ward. When the child died Nurse Jelly told her not to tell her husband anything.
Dr. Darling thought they should have a preliminary investigation and then refer the matter to the Local Government Board. This course was agreed to. The witnesses and Nurses were brought into the boardroom. Mrs, McCann’s letter was then read in their presence. Mrs. McCann was then questioned by the doctor, the chairman, and several Guardians, and repeated the statements made in her letter. Nurse Jelly said she was through the ward several times during the night, but Mrs. McCann said that could not be, as she never slept during the night, and would have seen her. Nurse Wallace said when Mrs. McCann asked her for the castor oil she told her she could not give it without the doctor’s permission, but, sympathising with the woman she brought her some magnesia. Throughout her residence in the hospital she had always treated Mrs. McCann with the greatest kindness. The child would not take medicine, and, owing to¬†its great distress caused by ejection, she¬†concluded it better not to give it medicine, the taking of which would do it much harm. The whisky and milk and other special nourishment were really ordered for another patient in the ward. She gave the child as much attention as possible, but the Guardians must remember that she had at same time nearly thirty cases to attend to, including a serious typhoid case, and her services and those of Nurse Jelly were in constant requisition. Dr. Darling substantiated the statement of the nurse in regard to the special nourishment in the fever infirmary, said she was in the ward with Mrs. McCann and her child, and saw Nurse Jelly come in several times during the night. Maggie Hawthorne said she was a patient in the ward. She was very sick on Sunday night, and did not observe the nurse coming in. Mrs. Cunningham, a patient in the same ward, said everything Mrs. McCann said was true. Nurse Jelly was not in the ward during the three nights. After a protracted inquiry lasting over five hours, Mr. McCann said he believed the Guardians had sufficient information before them¬†for their purpose, and he would move¬†that the matter be referred to the Local Government Board. This was seconded by Dr. Moore and agreed to.
This Newspaper Article has been reproduced by the kind permission of the British Newspaper Archive Limited, (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk).