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Broken health system: Woman (90) endures trolley for two days

  • Two-day ordeal on trolley for Ann Talty (90) epitomises damning reality of our hospitals

  • Children have had their operations postponed

  • Situation getting worse across the country

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Agony: Ann Talty leans forward on her trolley bed to ease her pain

Agony: Ann Talty leans forward on her trolley bed to ease her pain

INMO member Ann Noonan says overcrowding robs patients of dignity

INMO member Ann Noonan says overcrowding robs patients of dignity

The boy at Tallaght hospital surrounded by boxes

The boy at Tallaght hospital surrounded by boxes

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Agony: Ann Talty leans forward on her trolley bed to ease her pain

The shocking image of a 90-year-old woman who endured a two-day wait on a trolley has captured the reality of hospital overcrowding.

Ann Talty, from Raheen, was left struggling to rest in University Hospital Limerick as it recorded a record high of 85 patients on trolleys.

The retired shopkeeper's distress - leaning forward on a chair because her back pain meant she could no longer tolerate the trolley - highlights the human toll of the gridlock that is crippling hospital A&Es.

The disturbing picture, taken by her family, has emerged as new figures show that 2019 has been the worst year on record for people waiting on trolleys in hospitals around the country.

A total of 108,364 patients so far have suffered the indignity of spending hours on a trolley as the Government and the HSE fails to deal with the crisis which has hospitals buckling under the strain.

Ms Talty was admitted with serious back pain to the hospital's A&E on Monday morning in the week it listed a record number of patients on trolleys.

Her concerned daughter Trish told the Irish Independent: "My mother's condition was deteriorating because of the conditions she was in.

"People were constantly being moved out of the way. I had to bring my mother to the bathroom and I had to move a patient's trolley to get into it.

"Every space was occupied. She put her head on the trolley but kept waking up.

"If I treated my mother like this at home, I would be accused of abuse."

She described how trolleys were lined up on either side of the corridor and patients suffered the embarrassment of undergoing examinations in public view.

Ms Talty also suffered a delay in getting pain medication.

On Tuesday, a doctor had ordered it but she was still waiting for the relief two hours later when it was administered by a nurse.

After her daughter pressured the hospital to transfer Ms Talty, she was moved to St John's Hospital in Limerick on Wednesday evening after the family contacted the Limerick Leader.

It was only yesterday it was discovered she had suffered a lower back fracture.

Questioned on Ms Talty's case, a spokesperson for the University Hospital Limerick said he could not comment on individual cases.

"This is not the level of service we wish to provide but we want to reassure the public that every effort is made to move patients to a bed as soon as possible," the spokesman said.

The spokesperson said an escalation policy has been put in place, which includes the transfer of patients to other hospitals within the mid-west and community care settings.

Meanwhile, a mother has spoken out after her sick five-year-old son was cared for in an overflow support room, used to store medical equipment, in Tallaght Children's Hospital emergency department on Friday.

The mum-of-four, who did not want to be named, said they were referred to the hospital after her son had high temperatures.

"When we actually got to see a doctor after about three hours of waiting, we were brought into a consultation room. There was a trolley pushed up against the wall and there were boxes of what looked like crutches and medical equipment stacked up higher than the bed and behind the door and everything.

"We had a leg-width wide to scootch in. I was getting in the way of the doctor. I was trying to hold him but the doctor had to manoeuvre around us.

"To be fair to the staff, they were very apologetic. The doctor was very nice and I can't fault the medical staff, it was just the conditions."

A spokesperson for Tallaght Hospital and the Children's Health Ireland (CHI) said it "sincerely regrets the experience this family had".

"The children's hospitals are extremely busy this week managing increased attendances to their EDs, while it's not acceptable to use support rooms in ED, the increased numbers are putting a strain on the areas in ED in which we see children and infants. This demonstrates the need for continued investment in the new children's hospital," she said.

As frontline staff cope with another devastating winter season, Ann Noonan, one of the nurses in the main Limerick hospital, spoke out yesterday about the hellish conditions.

The INMO executive council member said things had become progressively worse.

She said: "It's quite astounding in the last 10 years how much worse it has got. If you walk onto a ward now and there isn't a trolley, it's nearly unusual."

It comes after high-profile Fine Gael TD Kate O'Connell admitted she was embarrassed in case she was recognised as she witnessed "South American" conditions in the A&E of Crumlin Hospital last weekend.

There were 24 children waiting for a bed across the three children's hospitals yesterday morning - up from 14 the previous day.

Crumlin Hospital, Temple Street Hospital and the children's section of Tallaght Hospital were forced to appeal to parents to be aware they faced long delays to be seen if their child's illness was not urgent.

The children's A&Es are under "extreme pressures" due to a spike in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and this is expected to continue at high levels for the coming weeks.

A spokeswoman said: "We are asking all families if their child's care is not urgent to help us help them during this busy period in our emergency departments.

Yesterday there were 24 patients waiting for admission to an inpatient bed in emergency departments across the three children's hospitals, compared to 14 yesterday morning.

She added: "If your child is seriously ill or you are worried that their life may be at risk, please attend our emergency department and we will assess and treat your child as a priority.

Scores of children who were due to undergo surgery have had their operations postponed because of the congestion.

Dr Ciara Martin, a paediatric emergency consultant, said: "Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is one of many winter viruses children get.

"In many instances, all these illnesses can be successfully treated at home, with a visit to the GP, pharmacist or out-of-hours GP replacing a long wait in emergency departments.

The virus is expected to continue to circulate intensely for three to four weeks and the advice is to not bring very small babies to gatherings where they are at risk of picking up the infection.

Dr Martin advised that if a child has a sprain or broken bone, mild asthma, gastroenteritis or needs a few stitches, the urgent care centre in Connolly Hospital would be open from Monday at 10am.

Leading emergency doctors are warning the gridlock in adult hospitals will spiral as winter flu levels rise.

Fergal Hickey, spokesman for hospital emergency consultants, said a lack of beds was killing hospitals and "killing patients".

The Sligo emergency consultant described the Government's €26m winter initiative as a "joke" and an "insult".

HSE figures show only half of patients over 75 are being given a bed or discharged within the nine-hour target.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said that so far this year University Hospital Limerick had had 12,810 patients on trolleys, followed by Cork University Hospital where 10,136 people waited for a bed.

Another 7,409 have been on trolleys in University Hospital Galway and 6,383 in South Tipperary Hospital.

Additional reporting by David Raleigh and Micheál Ó Scannail

Irish Independent