Tuesday 12 November 2019

Doctor: A&E like 'Guantanamo' for elderly patients

The crowded waiting room in Dublin’s Beaumont Hospital in January.
The crowded waiting room in Dublin’s Beaumont Hospital in January.
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

CONDITIONS in the emergency department of one of the country's most overcrowded hospitals are so bad they are the equivalent of "healthcare Guantanamo," a doctor has warned.

The reference to the infamous detention centre in Cuba is contained in a confidential letter sent to senior management in Beaumont Hospital and HSE chief Tony O'Brien by a senior emergency department doctor in December - before the crisis in trolley patients escalated.

The doctor stressed he has extreme concern for the safety and care of patients and said he could not fathom how an island of usually elderly patients on trolleys in front of the nurses' station could ever be "regarded as an acceptable situation."

Exposure of these patients "to a sleep-deprived 24-48 hours of noise and chaos in Beaumont emergency department is I think, the equivalent of a healthcare Guantanamo," he warned in the correspondence seen by the Irish independent.

Revealing the scale of the crisis he said:

He regularly witnessed critically ill patients receiving blood transfusions on chairs.

Patients who had a heart attack or other cardiac emergencies are regularly also treated on chairs.

He struggled to get a trolley for a man with acute decompensated liver failure.

Two patients with advanced cancer were "doomed to sit on chairs" for 24 hours. He regularly has heartbreaking conversations with patients who are literally at breaking point after spending 24-48 hours in the unit.

He had to resuscitate a patient who suffered a cardiac arrest after being placed in an annex corridor.

The department had become a "centre of mediocrity and misery for patients". He said a "system-wide" solution across the hospital could reduce the problem, including transferring more patients on trolleys to wards, out of the noisy and chaotic emergency unit.

It was also necessary to move towards a system of "investigate to discharge" so that patients received proper investigations and are allowed go home.

Commenting on the changes made in the last two months, a spokeswoman for Beaumont Hospital said it regrets the difficult conditions experienced by patients and staff in one of the busiest emergency departments in the country, catering for 50,000 patients annually.

She pointed out all available bed capacity is "open". The hospital has moved to cancel all waiting list non-urgent procedures since the start of the year.

The hospital pointed out it has been "actively working with the community to increase discharges".

However, she stated that the number of patients coming off the long-term care list are being replaced by similar numbers awaiting long-term care.

Irish Independent

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