Medics shone spotlight on crisis

The crisis at Tallaght Hospital’s emergency department has been repeatedly highlighted by medics for some time.

However, it was not until the death of a 65-year-old man left untreated in a trolley-filled corridor that more than political lip service was paid to addressing the problem.

The Hiqa investigation was instigated after the death of Thomas Walsh on Mar 2 last year at the facility. Mr Walsh, from Elmcastle Park in Tallaght, Dublin, lost his life after initially attending the day before suffering from severe ankle pain.

Instead of being seen to quickly, due to chronic overcrowding he was placed in a “virtual ward” — namely a corridor acting as an overflow to the emergency department, which was already full of trolleys.

Nobody with direct responsibility for Mr Walsh’s care was told he received continuous positive airway pressure treatment — a form of ventilation to help with breathing — for sleep apnea. As a result, his condition deteriorated while waiting for an inpatient bed, causing the 65-year-old to die from heart failure and bronchopneumonia.

Speaking at his inquest last June, emergency department consultant Dr James Gray said “a detailed nursing plan was not in place for Mr Walsh” due to a hectic workload crisis he said meant that “at some point in the future there may well be another cardiac arrest... if overcrowding continues”.

Dublin county coroner, Dr Kieran Geraghty, recorded an open verdict but his description of Tallaght as a “dangerous place for anybody, let alone a sick patient”, with “appalling poor standards of sanitation”, meant the death sparked the findings made by Hiqa yesterday.


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