Woman, 90, on hospital trolley for seven hours

Son reveals his mother’s ordeal at Portiuncula Hospital to highlight healthcare crisis, need for action

A 90-year-old woman spent seven hours on a hospital trolley in Galway.

She was left on a trolley in the emergency department (ED) at Portiuncula Hospital, in Ballinasloe, following an X-ray for a minor fracture, according to her son. This was at Christmas.

“She was quite distressed and anxious. Her blood pressure kept going up. When you’re 90, the ED is not the nicest of places to be,” her son told the Irish Examiner.

His mother had attended the hospital for a scheduled X-ray and when a minor fracture showed up in the scan, she was referred back to the ED, where she then waited on a trolley, for seven hours, to be seen and discharged.

“Going through the ED was the only route. Ideally, there should be another route. She was with another relative and then I heard she was in ED and came up from Dublin,” he said.

The woman’s son said politicians are not taking the hospital trolley crisis seriously.

Yesterday, the Irish Nurses’ and Midwives’ Organisation (INMO) recorded 473 people waiting on hospital trolleys around Ireland. This figure did not include St Vincent’s Hospital, in Dublin. The highest number (48) was recorded in University Hospital Limerick; followed by Cork University Hospital, 34; and, then, University Hospital Galway, where 30 patients waited on trolleys.

“My advice to people is to complain and make noise. They have been talking about fixing this crisis for years and I see no solution in sight. I feel people are at their most vulnerable when they are sick and also when you’re least likely to stand up for yourself,” he said.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Simon Harris has concurred that 500 additional beds are needed in hospitals to avoid a repeat of the winter flu crisis currently gripping the health service.

While members of the Independent Alliance broke ranks yesterday to demand the extra beds, Mr Harris, too, has made it known that an increase in bed capacity in 2018 is urgently required.

While it has been stated that as many as 2,500 beds will be needed in the system in the next 10 years, Mr Harris has insisted money be found to deliver the additional beds.

The capital cost of providing a new, acute hospital bed was estimated at €325,000 last year. Beds in modular units or in hospitals with spare capacity would be more affordable.

The Department of Health is studying which hospitals can take extra beds in existing or modular buildings this year, and that bed capacity review is to go to Cabinet in nine days’ time.

At Cabinet, Mr Harris won what was seen as a “major victory”, in getting Cabinet agreement on the course of actions for the year ahead. He won approval to move forward on the new GP contract, deliver the reforms outlined in the Slaintecare report, and deliver reforms to get trolley numbers under control.

Mr Harris also, yesterday, referred the Patient Safety Licencing Bill to an Oireachtas committee for scrutiny.

“Another important step for this major legislation that is much-needed,” he said.

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