A woman whose husband was left to wait for 12 hours on a hospital trolley has claimed her family are among “voiceless victims” of NHS budget cuts.
Former university lecturer Desmond Eccles died of heart failure at Antrim Area Hospital.
Now his widow Helen says she feels budget cuts have robbed hospitals of basic resources and have led to staff being stretched to the limit.
The Glengormley man (68), who suffered from diabetes and sarcoidosis, was admitted to Antrim hospital on January 4 with severe stomach pains.
He did not receive immediate treatment but instead lay waiting on a trolley for 12 hours with a thin blanket and no pillow before being transferred to Whiteabbey Hospital with a suspected virus, because, the family were told, there were no beds in Belfast, Dundonald or Antrim hospitals. Two days later the father of two was rushed back to Antrim Area. He died half-an-hour after admission.
Mrs Eccles believes that had Desmond been seen earlier, his death may have been prevented.
She said: “Staff at both hospitals were overstretched and overworked but they couldn’t have been kinder or more sympathetic. My gripe if you like is the amount of bouncing about he did from hospital to hospital and the amount of hours he spent on that trolley.
“I feel perhaps if he had been seen to much sooner, they would have had time to find the problem. Never at any point were they able to tell us what was wrong with my husband. He was never really diagnosed until we arrived at the end when his heart had failed.
“I’ll be honest, I just think the ordinary public like myself are voiceless victims of the system. I can only put it like that.
She said she didn’t blame the staff “it’s just the dreadful system. It seems to be a lottery these days to get a bed”.
She said the loss of the man she married 44 years ago after they met at a dance has left a void in her heart and her home.
She said: “We are absolutely devastated. Desmond was the cornerstone of our home.”
Now she fears that what happened to her family might happen to others unless politicians “extend the services in the centralised hospitals”.
A Northern Trust spokeswoman acknowledged Mr Eccles was admitted during a busy period but rejected any suggestion staff were unable to cope.
“There is no doubt that Antrim Area is an extremely busy hospital and the accident and emergency department is often under significant pressure,” she said.
“This in no way reflects that the service or the staff are not coping. It is in the nature of emergency services that priorities are kept under constant review.”
She said the trust wanted to express its sympathy, but said it would be inappropriate to comment on Mr Eccles’ treatment.