Saturday 3 December 2016

'In the corridors... people were getting sick, bleeding, in absolute agony' - Woman describes overcrowded Irish hospital as 'worse than refugee camp'

Sasha Brady

Published 16/05/2016 | 16:26

Overcrowding in hospitals has become a national crisis.
Overcrowding in hospitals has become a national crisis.

A woman has described the grim reality of Ireland's hospital overcrowding crisis as her mother (98) is forced to wait 32 hours for a hospital bed.

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Last Thursday Valerie's 98-year-old mother had a fall and was picked up by ambulance at 9.30am and taken to the local regional hospital.

Upon arriving at the hospital the she was greeted with horrific scenes as her mother was forced to wait 32 hours for admission to a bed.

"It was worse than a refugee camp," said Valerie when speaking to RTE's Liveline.

"In the passage, in the corridors, in every nook and cranny, I mean everywhere you looked, there were people getting sick, bleeding, in absolute agony.

"People were coughing and spitting into containers. Some were vomiting on to the ground and vomiting into bowls but the bowls were just left there.

"Someone had left bowl full of vomit beside my mother and nobody was there to take it away. I had to pick it up, cover it and put it to one side."

There wasn't a bed available for Valerie's elderly mother so she had to wait on a trolley in the cramped A&E department for five hours, where rows of trolleys were lined up side-by-side.

She described it as a noisy and chaotic environment where patients and their loved ones were struggling to cope in the cramped conditions. She said patients were in obvious discomfort and visibly upset but there wasn't an available member of staff to take care of them.

Exhausted but determined to care for her mother, Valerie took matters into her own hands when she realised it would be a long time before anyone could see to her.

"She was covered in blood from her fall and nobody was there to clean her," said Valerie.

"I had to strip her down. I had to take her nightie off in the corridor and clean her down with Dettol wipes in front of everyone while she was still bleeding. I had no other option.

"She needed to use the bathroom but that was out of the question so the inevitable happened. That's why I had to change her and clean her down. She was covered in blood and urine. It wasn't very pleasant.

Eventually a member of staff helped Valerie move her mother to a cubicle where she could continue to clean her in private but conditions there were even worse as Valerie said the cubicle was "full of waste bins".

"I tried not to be rude and lose my patience over the terrible conditions. I didn't want to be pushy because there were a lot of people there in the same situation but she's my mother and this mattered terribly to me," she said.

Valerie said that despite hearing about similar horror stories, nothing could have prepared her for the reality of the situation.

"You hear about waiting lists and trolliers. You hear about the terrible conditions and you see the photographs but you're not prepared. When you're there it's absolutely horrendous. It's like going to war."

Valerie wasn't allowed to photograph the scenes she witnessed, in order to protect the dignity of the patients, but she said a doctor had asked her to go on air and highlight the problem, detailing the terrible conditions she experienced.

"The staff are under serious pressure. They go through this 24/7. They're like robots now because it's the only way to get the job done," she said.

While Valerie is thankful her mother did get seen to eventually, she believes that she only got through it because she's strong for her age.

"She's now in a comfortable bed with the kindest nurses. She's in the system now. If she was a weaker person I don't know if she would have made it at all.

Her grim, first-hand account of overcrowding shows how many of the nation's emergency departments are creaking at the seams.

This follows the latest reports from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), in its Trolley/Ward watch analysis, that 9,381 patients were waiting on trolleys in March this year, awaiting admission for in-patient treatment.  

This represents a five per cent increase when compared to March 2015 and a 45 per cent increase compared with March 2014.

The figures also show that in March 2016 there was a shocking 100 per cent increase in trolley overcrowding compared to March 2008 when just 4,701 patients were on trolleys.

As of 3pm today, there were 285 patients waiting on admission to hospital beds in Ireland's hospitals.

The HSE said that there is an overall increase of 6.9 per cent in the number of people attending Emergency Departments, compared to last year.

A spokesperson told Independent.ie that "measures are being implemented on an ongoing basis to address the issues include the opening of acute beds, the reduction of delayed discharges and the provision of supports in the community to deal with the increased demand."

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