Monday 21 October 2019

Inside Ireland's most overcrowded A&E room

Patients lie on trolleys in a corridor of St Luke’s General Hospital, Kilkenny
Patients lie on trolleys in a corridor of St Luke’s General Hospital, Kilkenny
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

A woman coming down the stairs raises her eyebrows as a nurse races past her. "Someone's in a hurry," she remarks.

St Luke's General Hospital in Kilkenny is in crisis. For the second day in a row, the Emergency Department is the most overcrowded in the country, according to figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

Yesterday afternoon, the waiting room was entirely full, with three further elderly patients in wheelchairs. But while clearly exceptionally busy, the hospital is organised along lines of military precision.

Staff are visible everywhere - from hospital porters pushing frail elderly patients in gurneys and wheelchairs to medics rushing along the corridors. It is the refrain on the lips of everyone we speak to: "The staff are amazing."

One woman reluctantly admitted that a loved one had been waiting for a bed for some time but that was as far as she would go out of loyalty to the medics.

"It doesn't matter how long they're waiting because it's about the quality of care they're getting," she said.

For another woman, the day had brought relief for her mother, aged almost 82, who had been admitted to hospital on New Year's Eve suffering from pneumonia. After spending two and a half days on a trolley, she finally got a bed yesterday.

"We're so relieved," said the woman who preferred not to be named.

"She was uncomfortable on the trolley and she wasn't sleeping much because of the noise and the lights."

In the section where her mother's trolley had been placed, were many elderly people in a similar situation suffering from respiratory conditions, she said.

"There were two inside the door and the corridor was lined with trolleys. I felt so sorry for the staff trying to squeeze past."

Nevertheless, the care given to her mother even on the trolley was "excellent," she said, adding that oxygen had to be administered and she had been placed on a drip but "her spirits were good."

"She got some sleep today since she's been given a bed so that's a great relief," the woman added.

Several other people in visiting relatives who have beds noted that the hospital was far busier than usual.

"They're doing their best. It's overcrowded but it's organised," one man said.

A statement from the Ireland East Hospital Group the previous day said the hospital had seen 73 admissions during New Year's Eve/Day. "Patients are presenting with a variety of complex needs, however, there is a steady increase in patients presenting with flu symptoms and respiratory-type conditions across all age groups," said the statement.

Irish Independent

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