Sunday 18 August 2019

Man (65) who broke arm in two places left on trolley overnight after ten hour A&E wait

Katherine and Gerard McKenna
Katherine and Gerard McKenna
Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

The daughter of a man who was hospitalised after a "traumatic" accident has claimed the health "system is breaking down" after he spent almost ten hours in an A&E waiting room, then slept on a trolley overnight and was given just two painkillers over 24 hours.

On November 9 Gerard McKenna, who is from Tallaght in Dublin, had an accident in the yard of the garage where he works. He fell from his truck and broke his arm in two places and caused significant damage to his shoulder.

His daughter Katherine said that the nurses who cared for Gerard (65) in Tallaght Hospital are "angels" but she said they are under too much pressure and the system is at breaking point.

She told "We went in at 10pm on the Thursday night and he didn't get seen for an x-ray until 8.30am on Friday morning, by that stage his arm was so swollen and painful.

"He had been left in the A&E department overnight and it's so uncomfortable, there's no food and he was in pain.

"The most concerning thing was when we got the x-ray done they only checked one part of his arm and they thought it was just a crack in the arm.

"Initially they were going to manipulate the arm and they had the oxygen and gas ready to go but one of the nurses stopped it and suggested that they get another x-ray done.

"They found there were a couple of broken parts and there was no way they could have manipulated the bone back into place - it needed an operation, there was a lot more work that needed to be done than they initially realised."

Tallaght Hospital
Tallaght Hospital

Gerard had to wait another 24 hours for surgery as there was no bed available, so he was kept overnight on a trolley in the A&E corridor.

When he finally was being brought for his procedure on the Saturday afternoon, Katherine said another issue was flagged.

She explained: "He felt really unwell after the fall, it wasn't just the pain in his arm but he didn't know if he had blacked out of tripped over his own foot or what had happened.

"We had asked the hospital staff could they do checks to make sure everything was okay but when he eventually got to surgery they realised an ECG was never done to check his heart, which should have been carried out at an early stage."

Katherine also said that she feels her father's ordeal was made worse by a lack of pain relief.

She said: "He was initially given two Nurofen when he first went in on Thursday but he wasn't given any more pain relief until he got onto the ward 24 hours later.

"My dad was in a lot of pain, he had fallen quite a distance and he had broken his wrist and damaged his shoulder.

"It just seems like every step of the way there were problems - they didn't do the x-rays properly, so they had to do a second one; they hadn't done the ECGs; he got hardly any pain relief so he was just left sitting there.

"My dad is a man who has worked all of his life, he would leave for work at 6 in the morning and you wouldn't see him again until seven that night.

"He's paid his fair share of taxes in this country, he has very rarely every needed help from the health system in this country so for him to be left like that is so frustrating, the accident was a traumatic enough experience for him."

Both Gerard and Katherine have stressed that the frontline staff they met were "lovely" but they feel they were put under too much pressure.

Katherine explained: "He really wants to thank the nurses, they were really, really lovely but they just don't have enough staff or bed or resources.

"It's really disheartening and you really do feel for them.

"Even the night we arrived in we were told that there wasn't a doctor available to examine dad and that's why he was left sitting there so long.

"The staff we met are fabulous but perhaps it's an upper-management problem that needs to be highlighted."

She continued to say that she feels there is a lack of accountability and structure within the health system.

Katherine said: "I work for the Department of Education and we have a ratio of staff to pupils in place and if we don't adhere to that we would be in serious trouble.

"It made me think, why don't the HSE have to maintain a proper ratio of doctors and nurses to patients, there has to be a system in place but there's too many people missing from that system.

"The system is breaking down and they don't even have time to communicate effectively with each other so then they're missing out with all of the different details.

"There just doesn't seem to be enough people on the ground and it's causing a huge amount of stress for the staff who are there and are doing their best.

"The staff we met were under so much pressure and it's not fair on them, especially over a long period of time.

"One nurse told us it had been this busy since she started in 2008, they seem to do it for the love of their job but I don't know how they keep going."

Gerard returned home on the day after his operation, following almost three days in hospital and Katherine said that the experience has opened her eyes to the crisis within the health system.

She said: "I genuinely didn't realise it was this bad, I had heard people complaining about the health system before and about patients having to wait on trolleys in corridors but my god, I was shocked when I saw how bad it really is.

"This was for something that is supposed to be  simple process and he should have been in and out within 24 hours."

A spokesman for Tallaght Hospital said: "Tallaght Hospital cannot comment on individual patient cases however we apologise to any patient who has had a negative experience during treatment at the Hospital.

"We would also urge them to engage with the Hospital’s patient advocacy co-ordinator about their experience as feedback is very important in helping to improve our services."

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