herald

Friday 9 December 2016

Inside Dublin's worst-hit hospitals as trolley crisis is labelled a 'national scandal'

Crisis

James Coyle, who suffers from breathing difficulties, had to spend the night in a chair at Beaumont Hospital, where overcrowding has reached crisis levels
James Coyle, who suffers from breathing difficulties, had to spend the night in a chair at Beaumont Hospital, where overcrowding has reached crisis levels

A Cabra pensioner with breathing difficulties has told how he slept overnight in a chair in the Emergency Department of Beaumont Hospital when overcrowding reached crisis point.

Just hours after the hospital asked people not to attend its Emergency Department, James Coyle (72) was still being treated in his chair.

He first went to the hospital at around 10am on Tuesday morning, and his treatment in the triage unit began in the chair.

"I have breathing problems," he said from behind a mask strapped to his face with a line connected to a tank behind him.

"I slept in this chair last night, but the nurses and staff are being really good. It's not their fault.

Serious

"I think a lot of the problem is people with cuts and bruises and minor things coming in, instead of serious cases. That causes a lot of backlog, but I don't know how the government will solve it.

"Something needs to be done to help the staff and make sure the waiting times are reduced. In the meantime, I suppose I have to be patient."

At lunchtime yesterday two rows of trolleys were lined up inside the door of the triage area of the hospital. There was no space between the beds at all.

One elderly woman had been waiting in the Emergency Department (ED) for 62 hours - more than two-and-a-half days.

Around the perimeter of the triage area were rows of trolleys in bays separated by curtains. They were all full, so many patients were sitting in chairs in long rows that stretched out of sight to the back of the unit.

Patients sat with drips in their arms or masks that covered their mouths and noses.

Some were sitting outside the ladies and gents toilets, where the sound of flushing punctuated the long day.

What was also obvious was the possibility of sick patients being exposed to cross-contamination with the illnesses of those in close proximity.

Earlier this week, Beaumont Hospital asked the public to avoid visiting the ED department unless absolutely necessary. A spokesperson for Beaumont didn't respond to calls at the time of going to print.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has urged Beaumont Hospital to go off call immediately due to "unsafe conditions" in its ED.

The INMO said that, despite the ED being in crisis all week, the hospital only went off call for two hours on Tuesday.

Since then, ambulances have continued to come in relentlessly with very sick patients.

"The hospital is in crisis since Monday, yet the appropriate actions have not been taken to address the severe overcrowding levels," said INMO Industrial Relations Officer, Lorraine Monaghan.

Disgrace

Meanwhile, a Dublin-based ED consultant has branded the situation of a high number of patients on trolleys in hospitals nationwide "a disgrace".

Dr James Gray, based at Tallaght Hospital, said that the INMO figures showed the numbers on trolleys and on wards had dropped slightly yesterday to 473 - from 558 on Tuesday and 516 on Monday.

"This is a disgrace that it is allowed to continue," he told the Herald. "It's a national scandal."

He pointed out that the INMO figures showed that almost 87,000 admitted patients were awaiting an in-patient bed between January and November last year. This figure is likely to rise to around 95,000 patients when the December figures are included, he said.

"It is a scandal - that is what it is," he said.

"Many of those patients are elderly, the most vulnerable in our society.

"A measure of a society is how we treat our most vulnerable, and, if you take ED crowding as one aspect of how we deal with vulnerability, we are doing it very badly in Ireland.

"Having patients boarded on trolleys for any length of time is a disgrace," he added.

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