No privacy for patients in crowded A&E
A frail elderly man was preparing to spend what would undoubtedly be a long night in hospital.
His worried loved ones towered over him with concerned faces and one woman planted a kiss on his forehead as she tucked a thin blue blanket around him. The small group around this patient were tending to him before they would unwillingly leave his side, their faces full of emotion as they placed his overnight bag at the end of his bed. The tender moment they shared with their loved one should have been for their eyes only. Instead, the family were stripped of their modesty in this trying time, because their beloved was lying on a bed which was parked against the nurses' station in the A&E department in St Vincent's Hospital, shortly after 10pm on a damp evening earlier this week.
There was not even a flimsy curtain to give this family some privacy, denying them of a few quiet moments.
Around them, machines were whirring, intermittently beeping and bleeping loudly. Anxious doctors and nurses with kind faces quickly moved back and forth to tend to patients who were calling for help.
Patients lay on trolleys all around the main area, as all of the curtained bays seemed to be occupied. A cleaner tried to manoeuvre his way around a trolley and the woman lying on it called out to him, as she appeared to be looking for a nurse.
And, just when I thought I had seen it all, I spotted a dark corridor leading off from the main area which was lined with up to four more patients who were lying on beds and trolleys.
As I wandered down it, I spotted an elderly man - in his 70s at least - speaking in hushed tones to his wife, who was loyally perched by his side in an uncomfortable-looking wooden chair.
She was not the only one, and many others seemed resolved to spending the rest of the night in these chairs. Some of these seemed to be patients with hospital bands strapped around their wrists, and one man appeared to be sitting beside a sink.
Despite these patients being stripped of their dignity as they lay hoping their lengthy wait would soon come to an end, they were actually the lucky ones. On the other side of the divide, almost 50 people were wearily standing and sitting in the waiting room, praying for someone in scrubs to enter and call their name to bring them through.
One frail, pale woman sat in a hospital gown clutching the hand of a friend as she waited, while another man appeared to be dabbing blood from an oozing facial wound.