Tuesday 25 October 2016

Outrage as man (91) spends 29 hours waiting in hospital

Health Minister Leo Varadkar
Health Minister Leo Varadkar

The controversy over how a couple in their 90s were left languishing on hospital trolleys has deepened.

It emerged yesterday that a 91-year-old man with advanced Parkinson's disease had to endure 29 hours on a trolley at Tallaght Hospital, and his wife, also 91, spent more than seven hours in the same emergency department (ED) before getting a bed.

Concerned Tallaght Hospital emergency consultant Dr James Gray alerted Health Minister Leo Varadkar to the incidents in a memo - the couple were not identified.

There was widespread condemnation about the matter. Taoiseach Enda Kenny described it as "a shocking example of a dysfunctionality in the system".

In the Dail yesterday, Mr Kenny said he couldn't understand how an elderly person was treated in such a way.

"Who was the person responsible for leaving that person there?" he asked.

Dr Ray Walley, president of the Irish Medical Organisation, said that while he noted that the Taoiseach accepted the criticism of what had transpired in Tallaght by the consultant at the hospital, his wider remarks about what was being done to tackle the ED crisis "displayed a complete lack of appreciation as to the real problems.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the hospital is set to launch an internal probe.

In a statement, it said that arising from concerns expressed by an elderly patient to senior management at Tallaght Hospital, an internal review is to be conducted into the circumstances surrounding the "disclosure and characterisation of certain confidential patient information" to national media in recent days.

"The patient, who suffers from a chronic condition requiring regular attendance at the hospital, has expressed his appreciation for the standard of treatment received throughout all his periods of care at Tallaght Hospital," it said.

"While the hospital apologises that the patient in question was subject to an unacceptable delay prior to being transferred to a ward bed on Monday, the hospital also has a strong duty of care to safeguard the interests of all its patients and will take necessary steps to ensure these are upheld at all times," it said.

Dr Gray subsequently gave his response: "The hospital should concentrate on the solutions to the failures themselves rather than on who is highlighting them, whoever the messenger is," he said.

Meanwhile, Stephen McMahon of the Irish Patients' Association (IPA) said the couple should be provided with "an independent patient advocate."


"I think really the issue here is that we can't lose sight of the fact that the gentleman and his wife were on a trolley for far too long. I think if there is an investigation, it must look into the allegations by the consultant who wrote the memo.

"They are very, very serious issues in that," he pointed out.

Separately, the HSE has revealed the number of closed beds in the system for reasons such as infection control and refurbishment issues. In the last two months, the closures have typically ranged between 150-200 beds for adult acute beds.

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