Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Family 'had to grieve in busy ward'

Care for the dying in Ireland needs to be improved, the Ombudsman says

A family forced to publicly grieve over their father's death in a busy hospital ward were asked if he wanted dinner, a report on dying in Ireland reveals.

In one of several shocking cases investigated by the Ombudsman, the 61-year-old man was taken into an unidentified hospital after suffering a stroke.

His daughter complained that when he died several days later there was no private room for the family to be with their father's body and the only privacy was a curtain around his bed.

"The family was grieving for their father while normal activities such as meals and television continued around them," the report found.

"At one point, a member of support staff had pulled the curtain back to ask their father if he needed dinner."

The family also complained that they were asked to leave the ward by a certain time even though their father's remains were there for several hours before being moved to the mortuary.

"They were upset by what they saw as a lack of respect for their father," the report found.

Ombudsman Peter Tyndall investigates complaints from the public against the Health Service Executive (HSE), Government departments and local authorities.

On the back of issues flagged up to him about the death of family members in public facilities, he wrote up a report on how care for the dying could be improved in Ireland.

In another case, a women complained that she felt intimidated by a leading consultant after she raised concerns about the treatment of her brother who died in public care.

The senior medic did not offer her condolences but criticised her for complaining to the hospital rather than directly to him.

She said a letter from the consultant was defensive, offensive and intimidating and left her so upset she could not bring herself to meet the medical team involved in her brother's care about here concerns.

In a further case, a woman learned of her young brother's death in the intensive care unit of a hospital when she overheard two nurses talking about it as she arrived at the hospital.

"She began to hyperventilate with shock and says she was told by a nurse very abruptly to 'stay calm as you are not helping anyone'," the report found.

Mr Tyndall said poor communication, overburdened staff and lack of proper facilities were common among complaints he investigated from loved ones about the recently deceased.

But he added that they were no excuse for families being treated poorly and insensitively.

"With regard to physical facilities, patients and families want peace and privacy at the end of life," his report added.

"For most people this means access to a private room. Relatives need a private space to spend time with a loved one after death, a space clear of normal hospital routine, where they can grieve without worrying about the needs of other patients, or without being observed by others."

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