AN 88-year-old woman is approaching the 80-hour mark as she waits for a bed on a trolley in the emergency department (ED) in University Hospital Galway.
The elderly woman was brought to the ED of the hospital on Thursday evening, January 16, at approximately 9.30pm by ambulance.
As of Monday afternoon, the woman has been admitted but is still waiting to be assigned a bed and is approaching the 80th hour of her wait.
Speaking on Joe Duffy’s Liveline on RTÉ Radio One, the woman’s daughter Anna explained how they were told that the hospital was “chock-a-block”.
“My mum is 88 and in frail health. We’re here as of now, as of this moment, still,” she said.
“We were seen fairly quickly and assessed and all that, and admitted a while afterwards, but were admitted with no bed. There were no beds in the hospital. We were told the hospital was chock-a-block, there were no beds.”
Anna said that her mother has no privacy on the trolley and has been sleeping “very poorly, as it’s very noisy” on the trolley.
“When we came in first [the trolley] was in beside the door. There are no cubicles or you’re separated by curtains and mostly there aren’t many curtains, so you’re right beside the person next to you, and you’re listening to their diagnosis and listening to doctors talking to them.
“It’s one big chaotic melting point where nobody has a voice and nobody is seen, just chaotic,” she added.
Her elderly mother has been in and out of hospital “a good few times” over the last several years and Anna said that there is “no possibility” she can go home.
“I feel that this situation is a violation of human rights,” said Anna.
“They’ve mentioned a bed earlier on today now but it still hasn’t surfaced.”
She described the “chaotic” conditions at the ED.
“It’s wedged in there, it’s completely packed out, there’s no room, it’s unsafe, it’s unhealthy,” she said.
“It’s just very chaotic.”
“There is no privacy there, mostly you’re just beside the person next to you and there’s no separating curtain there’s no cubicle, you could be up at the door.”
Anna said that she is a “jaded carer” and has taken turns with her extended family members in caring for her mother since she entered the hospital last Thursday night.
In a statement to Independent.ie, Galway University Hospital said that it “regrets” that any patient, “especially older patients” should have to wait for admission to a hospital ward.
“We have specific staff assigned to care for patients who are in the ED awaiting a hospital bed on a ward; the patients continue to receive care from these staff until they can safely transfer to the appropriate hospital ward for their on-going care,” the statement reads.
It added that it is seeing “high volumes” of patients at the ED.
“The hospital is currently seeing high volumes of patients presenting to the ED, particularly medical patients, who need to be admitted for ongoing care and treatment.
“We apologise for the distress and inconvenience caused to patients and their families who are currently experiencing long wait times,” the statement concludes.
In a statement, the Department of Health said that upholding patient dignity and respect values "is very important" to the department and that it is "seeking specific details on the case raised".
"The Department of Health is engaging extensively with the HSE to identify mitigating actions to bring down trolley numbers and waiting times in the ED and has requested a number of actions for Galway University Hospital, which is experiencing significant difficulties over the last number of weeks," the statement read.
It added that winter funding is being used to "relieve demand for ED services, support discharge and other initiatives to help hospitals deal with the challenges associated with Winter."
"Specifically, the funding will support access to the Fair Deal scheme and the availability of home care, transitional care, aids and appliances and other local actions to both facilitate timely hospital discharge and reduce congestion in EDs over the winter period," the statement added.
"In addition, the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) has agreed to support the funding of additional beds for three months over the winter period. This initiative will support the commitment by the HSE and the Department of Health to alleviate winter pressures."