Thursday 13 December 2018

Death toll from flu rose to 136 during big freeze

Hospitals struggling to find beds for 614 patients on trolleys

A farmer makes her way through heavy snow. REUTERS
A farmer makes her way through heavy snow. REUTERS
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The death toll from flu rose to 136 as the country was stricken with deep snow and sub-zero conditions.

Twenty deaths were notified last week among mostly elderly people, and 175 patients were hospitalised with the virus.

Although flu rates are falling, hospitals were struggling to find beds for 614 patients on trolleys yesterday.

Hospitals in Galway and Tullamore were overwhelmed with overcrowding as very ill patients poured into A&Es.

Many hospitals continue to severely curtail the numbers of waiting list patients they can admit overnight, even though they are in serious need of surgery.

It comes as a series of damning reports from the Mental Health Commission watchdog criticised conditions for psychiatric patients in a number of hospitals which are worst hit by the trolley crisis.

An inspection of the acute psychiatric unit 5B in the grounds of University Hospital Limerick found conditions are "unacceptable".

Ventilation was inadequate in some toilet areas, the utility room in the psychiatry of old age area was dirty and there was an overpowering smell of sewage when the door was opened, lingering in the corridor.

When inspectors interviewed staff, they said it had been a problem for over a year.

The unit was not in a good state of repair, internally and externally.

Inspectors reported: "Among the issues observed by the inspectors were a blocked sink in one male toilet, tissue in the water outlet in the clinical room, unkempt and dirty garden areas, a dirty radiator in a dormitory room, cobwebs in the family room, a broken tile in a bathroom, dampness and peeling paint, cigarette burns in woodwork, and lifting floor vinyl."

During the inspection of the unit, four patients were seen sleeping in the open reception area of the centre because bedrooms were locked during the day.

Children were admitted to adult psychiatric units in Limerick, Bantry General Hospital, Lakeview Unit, Naas General Hospital and the Ashlin Centre in Dublin.

"These facilities do not have age-appropriate facilities and are not suitable for children, " said the commission inspectors.

The report also highlighted failures in the prescription and administration of medication at many facilities.

In one case in Lakeview Unit at Naas General Hospital, Kildare, a patient continued to receive medications for a number of days after they had been discontinued, putting them at risk.

In another case in the department of psychiatry at University Hospital Waterford, the storage fridge for medication had been switched off with no record of fridge temperatures maintained. It is the third consecutive year the approved centre has not been compliant with this regulation.

The report showed that in the Blackwater House section of St Davnet's Hospital in Monaghan, a GP was not always asked to review residents in declining health.

In two cases, the dignity of dying residents was not respected as they were nursed in a nine-bed dormitory.

Irish Independent

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