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Man, 91, 'unhappy' about disclosure of 29-hour Tallaght Hospital trolley wait

Published 04/11/2015

An elderly man had to be treated on a trolley for 29 hours at Tallaght hospital
An elderly man had to be treated on a trolley for 29 hours at Tallaght hospital

Hospital chiefs have claimed a 91-year-old man has expressed "strong dissatisfaction" that his 29-hour wait on a trolley for a bed has been exposed.

The elderly man was admitted to Tallaght Hospital on Sunday but not taken to a ward for over a day with his case the latest in a long line raised by politicians and senior medics to highlight the crisis in A&E overcrowding.

Hospital management said the patient expressed concerns to senior staff over how his confidential records were "disclosed and characterised" and an internal review is to be carried out.

"The patient in question has expressed strong dissatisfaction with the manner in which his personal clinical circumstances have been revealed and elements of his care misrepresented in media and other public channels over the past 24 hours," a hospital spokesman said.

"The patient, who suffers from a chronic condition requiring regular attendance at the hospital, has expressed his appreciation for the standard of treatment received throughout all his periods of care at Tallaght Hospital."

Tallaght Hospital apologised to the man for the trolley wait which it said was an "unacceptable delay".

It said: "The hospital also has a strong duty of care to safeguard the interests of all its patients and will take necessary steps to ensure these are upheld at all times."

The controversy was raised in the Dail with Taoiseach Enda Kenny calling for an explanation over the 29-hour trolley wait and asking who was responsible for failing to secure a bed for the man.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin read from a letter from Dr James Gray, a consultant in the emergency department in Tallaght who revealed the patient's wife also had to endure a trolley wait after being admitted the day after her husband.

Mr Gray said the elderly man was treated on a trolley in a corridor between psychiatric rooms and cubicles in the emergency department under bright lights and constant noise where he had " no dignity, no privacy, negligible confidential (care) and no infection control risk".

"On a number of levels this was an appalling case," the senior doctor told RTE Radio.

The latest case follows incidents where an elderly man suffering cancer was left on a trolley in the severely overcrowded A&E unit in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, for five days in September.

In the first week of June, also in Tallaght, a 101-year-old woman waited more than a day on a trolley, a scandal that was repeated in University Hospital Limerick the following week.

Tallaght also said its emergency department was one of the busiest and experiencing a sustained increase in patient numbers, including a 23% rise in the number of over-75s attending in the last two years.

Dr Fergal Hickey, consultant in the emergency department in Sligo and spokesman for the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine, raised concerns about the impact of holding elderly patients on trolleys for more than 12 hours.

"It is a proven fact that remaining on a trolley after this point is dangerous for patients and increases both mortality and morbidity risk for patients," Dr Hickey said.

The consultant said more than 12-hour waits on trolleys for elderly patients "makes it less likely that the patient will be able to return to an independent existence, have a longer hospital stay and more medical complications".

"This is hardly surprising as exposure to bright lights, loud noise and sleep deprivation has been used as a method of torture for many years. Given that this form of torture has been used effectively on young fit people, it is more devastating for older infirm patients often with multiple medical problems," Dr Hickey said.

The Taoiseach said the case was "a shocking example of a dysfunctionality in the system".

"This is a case that I just don't understand how it can be allowed to happen to a 91-year-old. It's up to everybody in the health service to play their part to ensure that the plan actually works," he said.

The latest overcrowding report from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said 439 people were on trolleys awaiting a bed in hospitals.

Thirty-four were in Tallaght - on a par with University Hospital Limerick and second only for the worst record to St Vincent's in Dublin with 35 patients on trolleys.

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