Thursday 21 September 2017

'Do I have to be dead to be considered an emergency?' - Man (65) waited two days in A&E with dropping heartbeat

Beaumont hospital
Beaumont hospital

Rebecca Lumley

A Dublin man whose heartbeat dropped to dangerous levels was made to wait two days in hospital before being treated.

Patrick O’Reilly (65) suffers from a condition which causes his heart-rate to fluctuate dramatically, ranging from dangerously high to dangerously low beats per minute.

When this happens he requires defibrillation to regulate the heartbeat.

Mr O’Reilly, from Ballymun, checked himself into Beaumont Hospital’s A&E department last Saturday morning, when his heart was pounding at 130bpm.

He was given an injection to slow his heart and left to wait on a stretcher. He asked to see the hospital’s cardiologist, but was told that the cardiologist would not come down except for in an emergency.

When Mr O’Reilly said his case was an emergency, he said he was told by hospital staff “you’re still alive aren’t you?”

Mr O’Reilly told Independent.ie his heartbeat dropped to just 25bpm that evening, when he was put in the hospital’s Phoenix ward and given a heart monitor.

He was then treated on Monday morning, when an anaesthesiologist was present at the hospital to assist with the procedure.

Mr O’Reilly said he was “astonished” at having to wait two days to be treated and said he had not previously realised what a “ghost town” the hospital was at the weekend. He believes he was not treated until Monday because there was no-one to assist with the procedure.

He said: “When your heart’s at a very high rhythm it’s hard to do anything. Even going down the corridor to brush your teeth is a big effort, you’re puffing and panting.

“The last time I had to come in to have this done was in February. That time I was taken into the A&E’s recovery room and had the job done within three or four hours. I was home the same day.”

He continued: “Irish people have become so lackadaisical about complaining about these sorts of things, everyone thinks someone else will do it. When are we going to stand up for ourselves and be counted?”

Mr O’Reilly said he was fearful that his heart would fail before receiving treatment on Monday and questioned why his case had not been treated as an emergency situation.

He said: “How far do I have to go to be classed as an emergency? Do you have to be dead?”

Beaumont hospital responded by saying it “does not comment on individual patient cases due to patient confidentiality.”

They said: “We would suggest that any patients or family members with concerns should contact the Patient Advisory Liaison Service who can be reached on (01) 809 3234 / 2427.”

In recent days people have protested to highlight a lack of cardiac services in Waterford after a local dad-of-three died of heart failure while he was being transferred by ambulance to Cork University Hospital.

Thomas Power (40), a local farmer who was recently married, died last weekend.

A treatment centre in Waterford Hospital - known as a cath lab - is only open on weekdays.

His heartbroken family have said they believe his could have been saved if treatment was available in Waterford at the time.

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