Tuesday 28 January 2020

Hospital denies patients were 'hidden' in room during Taoiseach visit to A&E

University College Hospital in Galway
University College Hospital in Galway

Sean Nolan

University College Hospital Galway have denied claims that patients were moved from the emergency department ahead of a visit by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last week.

On RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta on Monday, a man claimed that patients in the A&E were moved out of the A&E and ‘hidden’ in advance of the visit. on Thursday April 12.

However, a spokesperson for the hospital denied patients were moved in preparation for the Taoiseach's visit, saying that last week was "an extremely busy week with a high number of patients attending the Emergency Department".

Speaking to Cóilín Ó Neachtain on Adhmhaidin on RTÉ RnaG on Monday, Pádraig Mac Donncha from Connemara described arriving at A&E on Thursday.

“When the doors opened, my goodness, there’s no telling how many people were there.  It was absolutely full, with people lining the wall and out to the front door ...  You’re talking easily over 100 people.  I’ve been there many times, day and night, and it was the worst I’d ever seen it.”

“Next thing, I was sent down to a short stay ward. That itself was heaving. There were people in there in wheelchairs... Anywhere they could put people, they were there, hidden.”

“I can’t understand why it was done, why the Taoiseach wasn’t given an accurate picture... it was disgraceful."

He went on to allege that after Mr Varadkar left, the patients were moved back in to the emergency department.

In response to a query from Independent.ie a spokesperson for UCHG outlined the patient numbers over the course of last week: "In relation to patient accommodation over the course of the week - patients were not moved from the ED in preparation for Taoiseach's visit. University Hospital Galway’s Emergency Department was extremely busy last week with a high number of patients attending the Emergency Department since Monday 09 April. 

"The full capacity protocol was in place all week.

"On Monday six escalation beds were opened on St. Patricks ward and a further six overflow beds on Tuesday in the Acute Medical Assessment to accommodate patients awaiting admission from the ED.

"On Tuesday, April 10, there was a further increase in the number of people presenting to the Emergency Department and by 8pm there were 26 patients awaiting admission in the ED and we had 13 on ward trolleys with over a 100 in total in the ED department at that time.

"On Tuesday as part of the hospital’s escalation plan, additional trolleys were placed on wards as we would always do bringing this to a total of 19 trolleys in addition, this included using two beds on St. Finbar’s ward (orthopaedic ward), elective beds to accommodate two trauma orthopaedic patients from the ED for Tuesday night only.

"The Emergency Department was extremely busy again on Wednesday morning, 11 April with 58 patients awaiting admission. The situation however improved throughout the day due to increased focus on discharges as part of the hospital’s escalation plan and focused effort on Wednesday to deal with the 58 on trollies.

"On Thursday, 12 April there were 18 patients awaiting admission in the Emergency Department with seven patients accommodated on ward trolleys.

"At 8am on Friday morning there were 19 patients awaiting admission in the ED and 12 patients accommodated on ward trolleys."

Galway TD Catherine Connolly, who was at the event on Thursday, also spoke on Adhmhaidin on RTÉ RnaG about it.

“I walked through the hospital on Thursday, and I noticed that it was quiet.  I got calls then afterwards, to tell me that it was all a pretence, that there were patients there but that they had been hidden.

“There’s something, and I don’t like to use the word rotten, but there’s something rotten here. 

"The Taoiseach was in Galway and it didn’t suit to show him the honest truth of the situation.”

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