Sunday 16 June 2019

Daily ordeal of elderly patients on A&E trolleys

Health talks: Health Minister Simon Harris and national clinical leader for sepsis Dr Vida Hamilton. Photo: Photocall Ireland
Health talks: Health Minister Simon Harris and national clinical leader for sepsis Dr Vida Hamilton. Photo: Photocall Ireland
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The scandal of hospital trolleys is revealed in new figures showing that on each day last winter more than 50 of the most elderly patients were waiting longer than 24 hours for a bed in A&E departments.

More than 6,000 patients over the age of 75 bore the brunt of the winter crisis during the first four months of the year.

It comes as fears grow hospitals are heading for another winter of punishing gridlock.

The figures show University Hospital Galway, University Hospital Limerick, the Mater Hospital Dublin, Cork University Hospital and St Vincent's Hospital Dublin had the highest numbers of patients over 75 waiting for this gruelling length of time.

The HSE said older patients are likely to suffer several illnesses and need admission.

It has a target to admit or discharge all patients over the age of 75 within 24 hours - but it is constantly breached.

But hospital consultants have warned the longer an elderly patient is on a trolley, the higher the risk of developing life-threatening complications or contracting a serious infection.

Asked what progress has been made in preparing a winter initiative to cope with high levels of overcrowding in the coming months, the HSE said it "remains committed to minimising delays for patients, and to ensuring that adequate resources are in place in emergency departments throughout the country".

It added: "Winter planning is currently well under way and the HSE is working with the Department of Health, Hospital Groups and Community Health Organisations to finalise plans as quickly as possible to ensure preparedness for winter."

Meanwhile, a report an HSE showed that nearly one in five patients admitted to hospital suffering from sepsis will die.

Sepsis is a rare but serious complication of an infection. Without prompt treatment, it can lead to multiple organ failure and death.

There were 16,312 cases of sepsis reported in adult inpatients in 2017, with an in-hospital mortality of 18.4pc.

The HSE said this represented a 3pc decrease in mortality since 2016.

Dr Vida Hamilton, outgoing HSE National Clinical Lead for Sepsis, said that the most effective way to reduce mortality from sepsis was by prevention; good sanitation, personal hygiene, eating healthily, exercising moderately, breast feeding, avoiding unnecessary antibiotics and vaccination for vaccine preventable infections.


Better training and information on the recognition and treatment of sepsis was introduced following the death of Savita Halappanavar in October 2012.

Health Minister Simon Harris said the adult death rate from sepsis at 18.4pc "benchmarks very well internationally."

Sepsis can strike anyone at any age, irrespective of underlying good health or medical condition.

If sepsis is detected early and hasn't affected vital organs, it can be possible to treat the infection at home with antibiotics.

Most people who have sepsis detected at this stage make a full recovery.

Almost all people with severe sepsis and septic shock require admission to hospital.

Some people may require admission to an intensive care unit. Some experience long-term physical or psychological issues.

Irish Independent

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