Varadkar to visit Tallaght Hospital amid trolley crisis
New A&E extension to help tackle overcrowding
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, who is to visit Tallaght Hospital in the next fortnight to mark the official opening of a new extension to the emergency department, is "keen to meet" staff at all levels, including doctors, nurses, administration, management and board members.
After a week of controversy surrounding the "torturous" treatment of a 91-year-old man who spent 29 hours on a trolley at the hospital, it is hoped the new extension will ease overcrowding.
A spokesman for Minister Varadkar said: "The visit will be for the formal opening of the emergency department extension.
"It's an extremely important extension to a very busy section. The extra capacity will directly address overcrowding."
It is not known whether the minister will meet Dr James Gray - the emergency consultant who wrote the strongly-worded memo to management and the minister in order to highlight the conditions endured by the elderly patient who has Parkinson's disease.
The man's wife, also in her 90s, was also on a trolley for more than nine hours on Monday night.
"Minister Varadkar will meet with any staff who wants to meet him as per normal hospital visits. It won't be sit-down meetings. He will be keen to meet staff at all levels," said the spokesman. Though the visit was arranged prior to this controversy, the occasion will give the minister an opportunity to see first hand conditions in the hospital.
In a letter published last week, Dr Gray wrote: "This man, like the others in non-designated patient conduits, have no privacy, no dignity, are subjected to constant noise torture, constant light torture, resulting in major sleep deprivation, pressure effects causing pain as lying for advanced periods on a trolley not designed for same, as well as boarding conditions that constitute an infection control hazard."
Dr Gray concluded by saying: "It is only a matter of time before we disclose our next crowding related death at Tallaght Hospital while crowding is tolerated."
According to the latest figures, 324 patients were left on trolleys in emergency departments and wards at hospitals throughout the country on November 6.
Last week, Mr Varadkar said it was "indefensible" that any patient was forced to spend more than 24 hours in an emergency department.
Mr Varadkar said he rang the patient at Tallaght Hospital to ask him about his experience, as he had heard varied accounts. He said the man told him he was "happy" with the standard of care he received and his patient experience had been misrepresented.
However, the whistleblower has defended his decision to highlight the case. This weekend, Dr Gray described Tallaght Hospital's decision to order an internal inquiry into the leaking of the patient's personal information as intimidation.
He told the Irish Times that the hospital has been attempting to intimidate him "for years" due to his ongoing disapproval of overcrowding in the emergency department.