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Dublin: 0 °C Sunday 17 November, 2019
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Woman (70) ‘left for 105 hours on trolley’ in Limerick Hospital

The facility topped national charts for patients on trolleys in September.

Image: Lynne Cameron/PA

A 70-YEAR-old woman spent 105 hours on a trolley in a hospital in Limerick and expressed fears she would die if a fire started, her daughter said.

Alona Troy (40) from Bruree in Limerick took her elderly mother to University Hospital Limerick on Monday 23 September after she contracted an infection linked to her chronic illness.

Due to sustained overcrowding in the hospital, which topped the national chart for patients on trolleys in September, a lack of beds saw Troy’s mother left on a trolley for four-and-a-half days, according to her daughter.

“Mam was brought into the hospital by ambulance after she contracted an infection, these can be life threatening and it’s happened before,” she said.

“It became obvious when we got there that she wouldn’t be getting a bed as it was overcrowded, and as the week went on it got so much worse.

“It’s bad enough that you’re waiting that length of time for a bed, there isn’t room between the trolleys as they line either side of the corridor, they’re literally lined up the walls.

My mother couldn’t walk at the time, she had to be wheeled to the bathroom, the whole trolley, so that means everybody near her has to be moved, there’s trolleys in front of the toilet door, that person has to be moved.

“At one point my mother was under the glove dispenser, which meant people were leaning over her to get gloves, she couldn’t get any rest,” Troy said.

We couldn’t wash her, I had a few times where I just broke down in tears.

med Source: Lynne Cameron/PA

“People of all ages, everyone there in that zone, are sick, this isn’t people with broken bones, these are all people who need to be admitted to hospital,” she said.

“People were getting heart traces done in the corridor, people who had had heart attacks, strokes, dementia, everything has to be discussed out in the corridor, everyone knows each other’s medical records.

“Initially she didn’t have compos mentis due to the infection but became more aware the better she got, but her spirits dropped, it’s so demoralising,” Troy added. 

When she became clearer on Friday, mam said to me: ‘If there’s a fire or a gas leak here, people are going to die, because there is no possible way they could evacuate that A&E’.
There was people there with various forms of dementia who don’t know that the blanket has slipped off, who are in various states of undress, and she was watching this asking: ‘Am I that way?’, and I was reassuring her, but it’s so hard to see.

“You need someone with you who is physically fit enough to stand for hours on end, no relatives or visitors can have a seat to sit down as there’s no room, so you have to stand and just wait and wait.”

Troy said her mother visits the hospital regularly and, before this week, once waited 70 hours for a bed.

“The nurses and staff are amazing, I don’t know how they do it,” she said.

They were terribly apologetic, but they have to do this every day, shimmying through trolleys, there are volunteers that come around and help out, but it’s unsustainable.

“I just want to know that the money being spent on the HSE is going on looking after patients, enough nurses in every hospital that all wards and beds are open.”

Hospital response

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, UL Hospitals Group said the emergency department at University Hospital Limerick is “currently experiencing high numbers of presentations over recent days and weeks, including a significant number of frail, elderly patients”. 

UL Hospitals Group said it is unable to discuss individual cases publicly, in order to protect patient confidentiality, but added that its staff are happy to liaise with any patient or their family directly.

“However, it should be noted that it is a matter of sincere regret to us when admitted frail and elderly patients in particular have to wait for long times in the emergency department for beds to become available,” it said. 

This is an unacceptable situation, and does not reflect the standard of service and care that UL Hospitals Group wishes to provide the people of the midwest region.

“However, we wish to reassure the public that every patient who attends UHL receives expert medical care. We commend the tireless efforts of our staff for working to ensure patients are as comfortable as possible while in our care,” the hospital group said. 

It said is wishes to “reassure the public that a fire plan is in place” for the ED. 

The hospital group added that the current situation at University Hospital Limerick “arises from a combination of insufficient capacity, high attendances at the ED, and an unusually high number of ‘delayed discharges’”.

Figures released from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation this morning show that 610 patients are waiting for hospital beds around the country this morning.

University Hospital Limerick has 81 awaiting for beds there while Cork University Hospital has 58 Mater Misericordiae University Hospital in Dublin has 40.

UL Hospitals Group said UHL has just 455 inpatient beds, adding that “the construction of a 60-bed block is underway”. 

“None of this is to minimise the inconvenience and frustration felt by patients and loved ones who face long waiting times. However, we wish to emphasise that we are working assiduously to address the systemic issues at the root of hospital overcrowding,” the hospital group said. 

It appealed to the public to “attend the ED only if absolutely necessary” and to “first explore all available options”.

For injuries such as broken bones, dislocations, sprains, strains, wounds, scalds and minor burns, the hospital group said people can avoid long waiting times in ED by attending our Injury Units at Ennis and Nenagh Hospitals (8am-8pm every day) and at St John’s Hospital Limerick (8am-6pm Monday to Friday).

Others with a less serious illness can be treated by their GP or out of hours GP service where they can be referred an Assessment Unit the following day if required, it said.

“However, if you are seriously injured or ill or are worried your life is at risk the ED will assess and treat you as a priority.”

The HSE has been contacted for comment.

With reporting by Hayley Halpin and Cónal Thomas 

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