Patient complains of 'tortuous' 42-degree heat in Limerick hospital

By David Raleigh

The Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe (pictured below) has called on hospital managers to act responsibly and respond to the needs of patients affected by the heatwave.

The minister’s comments came on Monday as it also emerged how a mother being treated at University Hospital Limerick - who had complained last week of “tortuous” heat in her hospital room - has been transferred to a high dependency unit after she developed sepsis.

Sinead Johnson, a former private director of nursing, has been treated at UHL since undergoing bowel surgery on June 6th last.

It is the second time Ms Johnson, a native of Parteen, Co Clare but living in Ballybunion, co Kerry, has developed the potentially life-threatening infection since her surgery.

The mother of two claimed, following her surgery, she was not allowed open a window in her hospital room; that there was no air conditioning; and, accused hospital management of having no plan in place to deal with the heat.

Speaking today, Ms Johnson’s son, Kieran Johnson, aged 22, said: “Last Friday evening she developed (sepsis) again, and her temperature was sky high - it was 39.7. Her blood pressure was ’60 over 40’, and she got very very ill.”

“She has been put on a whole range of antibiotics.”

He added that, on Sunday night, Ms Johnson underwent two blood transfusions, as doctors battled to treat the potentially life-threatening infection.

“It's a horrible time,” said Mr Johnson, a trainee nurse.

She wants people to know how hard it has been - not just for her - but for other patients and for the nurses who are working around the clock, in 42-degree heat temperatures.

He continued: “A man brought in an air conditioning unit into my mother’s room after hearing her plea. He recorded the temperature in her room as 42 degrees, which (for her to be in a room in such heat) is cruelty.”

Mr Johnson claimed there was “no sign of management” on his mother’s ward when temperatures soared to 30 degrees last week.

“It's ridiculous. Some man from a company came in off his own back, it was nothing to do with the hospital.”

“The nurses are under an awful lot of pressure. You could hear people in pain, and people struggling (with the heat).”

“I’m very worried about (mum). She went in to have a surgery done, and she's got sepsis twice. She’s not one bit well.”

Referring to the sweltering conditions in the hospital and around the country, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, said: “First and foremost hospital management should be responding back to the needs of their patients.”

The minister said he was “sure they are”.

“In addition to that we have a massive capital programme underway into looking at how we can renew hospital buildings. In some cases, it means new buildings; in other cases it means renewing equipment that is in place.

“But, the responsibility for this, for now, does lie with those who are running our hospitals.

“I’m sure they'll be taking all the measures they can to make sure their patients and visitors are as safe and as comfortable as we experience these kinds of levels of heat.”

Reacting to the minister’s remarks, Kieran Johnson, claimed: “There was no reaction by the (hospital) management. In the entire duration of the heatwave, we saw no form of management come onto the ward to say they were trying their best and were trying to put a solution in place, or were trying to organise something.”

“We all knew the heatwave was coming weeks ago…When you're paying money for healthcare and you're expecting to be looked after well, and you're sitting in a 42-degree room…”

“It's (management’s) job to know what to do, not the care assistants, and not the nurses.”

Mr Johnson said patients on his mother’s ward also had to drink “Luke warm, rotten” water after the water cooler machine broke down last Friday.

Today, a hospital spokeswoman said it “did not have any further update to our statement issued on Friday.”

That statement read:

“Management is acutely conscious of the discomfort the hot weather is causing our patients and staff. Like many acute hospitals in Ireland, much of the inpatient accommodation in the hospital is located on outdated nightingale wards without modern air conditioning.”

“Hydration rounds have been doubled in frequency in recent days to ensure patients are getting enough water and every effort is being made to ensure unnecessary fasting is kept to a minimum.”

“UHL has deployed eight mobile air cooling units to older wards in the hospital and has been trying to source additional appropriate equipment.”

“It should be noted that the more recently developed parts of the hospital estate (Emergency Department, Dialysis Unit, Oncology, Critical Care Block, CF/Dermatology/Breast/Stroke Units) all have modern air conditioning.”

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