Elderly woman (94) left languishing on trolley for over 24 hours at crisis hospital
A 94-year-old patient had to endure hours on a trolley as a hospital grappled with its worst level of overcrowding in nearly six years.
The woman was among several elderly patients waiting in crisis-stricken Tallaght Hospital in Dublin. There were 517 patients on trolleys across the country yesterday - 73 of whom were waiting for a bed for more than 24 hours.
Tallaght Hospital, which is currently fighting a superbug, was trying to cope with trolley gridlock with 57 patients waiting for a bed.
It follows a fresh warning by emergency consultants that up to 350 patients across the country will die this year because of the trolley crisis.
Sligo consultant Fergal Hickey said he had witnessed patients dying before his eyes.
It can be "impossible for emergency staff to provide care for patients in an overcrowded environment", he said.
Doctors can miss a cardiac arrest or fail to treat pneumonia, meningitis or sepsis.
Dr James Gray, emergency consultant at Tallaght Hospital, told the Irish Independent that overcrowding there was the worst since 2011 when a patient died in the corridor.
"At 3pm there were 15 admitted patients on trolleys languishing for over 24 hours as well as patients over 70 years of age, including a 94-year-old," he said.
He said earlier this week a patient waiting more than eight hours with chest pain was subsequently diagnosed with a heart attack and had to be placed in coronary care.
Another patient who was delayed for two-and-a-half hours suffered a seizure in the waiting room in full view of the patients and relatives. There were difficulties getting the patient inside the emergency department because of the overcrowding.
Overworked staff had to do their best in a "dangerous environment", he said.
"Many patients left the waiting room after witnessing this patient seizing and self-discharged. We have no way of knowing what those patients have wrong with them in many cases."
He said the "situation is like an aeroplane full to capacity with all the seats full, all the aisles, exits and conduits full of passengers. The pilots are reluctant and have grave concerns to fly the plane while traffic control are insisting the plane takes off."
A hospital spokeswoman said the emergency department was experiencing a very high number of attendances requiring admission.
"They are prioritised and seen according to clinical need, which regrettably has resulted in longer patient waiting times and the postponement of six elective surgeries due to increased pressure on bed capacity," she said.
Meanwhile, it was confirmed yesterday the problem recruiting full-time consultants is forcing up to 50 cancer patients in Donegal to endure a gruelling journey to Galway for chemotherapy.