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OAP in night hospital move gets apology from Jim Wells

By Donna Deeney

Published 02/04/2015

Health Minister Jim Wells
Health Minister Jim Wells

Health Minister Jim Wells has apologised to a 98-year-old woman in a "confused state" who was transferred between hospitals late at night - breaching current trust policy.

An investigation has now been launched to establish the circumstances surrounding the reasons why the elderly woman and 21 other patients- were moved from the Royal Victoria Hospital to Musgrave Park Hospital in Belfast. Current policy is not to have transfers after 7pm.

There were no beds available for the elderly woman who was described by senior nurses as being in a confused state and had arrived at 11.30pm at the hospital last week. She was then moved to a male bay for treatment.

This has led to eight senior nurses criticising the standard of care a number of patients were receiving during night-time hospital transfers ranging between 9pm to 11.30pm. Their views were expressed in a letter of concern sent to management that current action is going against Belfast Trust policy.

The nurses stated that in the case of the elderly woman, she would not have had the "cognitive ability to consent to either the transfer or being cared for in a male bay". This is also in breach of patient standards and hospital policy.

The nurses claim the incidents show the Belfast Trust is not complying with its own policy and procedures

Mr Wells apologised to the woman but said transfers of patients were acceptable. But he said how transfers were carried out within the trust needed to be examined.

"I know that the Belfast Trust are looking at this as we speak and will come up with answers," he told the BBC.

"But what I will say is that the Belfast Trust over the last three months has experienced quite a rapid increase in demand."

Janice Smyth, director of the Royal College of Nurses in Northern Ireland, said the nurses were "at the end of their tether" and were absolutely right to put their concerns in writing.

"We have a health and social care system that is broken," she said.

"This lady it would appear would not have been able to consent to being transferred."

The Belfast Health Trust said it was concerned that "any patient should be treated in a way that compromises their dignity and for that we are sorry".

Dr Ken Fullerton, a senior consultant at the Belfast Trust, said they were investigating the circumstances in each case.

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