Sunday 8 December 2019

Comfort kits handed to patients to help them cope with A&E

SQUIRREL KIT: Nurse Maeve Kinsella. Photo: David Conachy
SQUIRREL KIT: Nurse Maeve Kinsella. Photo: David Conachy
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

A nurse who has worked in a critical care unit for 11 years has compiled a kit that helps make long waits more bearable for patients in A&E.

The overnight essentials pouch, nicknamed 'the squirrel bag', includes an eye mask and earplugs to help exhausted patients sleep.

The pack is currently being used by St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin, and it is hoped it will be rolled out to other hospitals soon.

Maeve Kinsella saw the distress people suffered as they sought medical attention, and decided to come up with her own solution.

The 'squirrel bag' went on to win the overall prize at the Irish Healthcare Awards.

"When someone comes into a ward they completely hand over their control," said Maeve. "They are often waiting for hours, sometimes days at a time.

"I saw a lot of people coming in on their own, who didn't have the typical family or support mechanisms, or anyone to pick up the little bits they might need."

She continued: "Hospitals are so busy and the lights are so bright I was thinking about it for a while, trying to come up with a way I could help.

"I chatted to my brother, who has a master's degree in ethics, and eventually we came up with something that would cover comfort, safety, hygiene and well-being needs. I am aware of hospitals' constraints and budgets - and it's a very simple idea to bring comfort in a difficult situation."

For hygiene, the pack contains a toothbrush and toothpaste in case of an overnight stay, and a pack of anti-bacterial wipes so patients can stay clear of germs.

The pack also contains non-slip safety socks, as thousands of elderly people fall in hospitals every year. "That is one of the biggest problems hospitals have," said Maeve.

Older people accounted for around 29,260 reported accidents and near misses in hospitals and nursing homes during 2009 - although many other cases have not been accounted for.

In nearly one in two cases, the incident involved an older patient falling while they were moving without supervision.

The reports, which relate to facilities funded by the Health Service Executive, are made on a confidential basis by staff to a central database compiled by the State Claims Agency, which handles compensation cases.

Sunday Independent

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