Distressed daughter reveals how elderly father left to wait on trolley for 24 hours at Royal Victoria Hospital
Extra staff had to be drafted in to assist at the Royal Victoria Hospital's A&E after patients were left lying on trolleys for up to 24 hours.
An ill pensioner, who was rushed to the hospital with acute pneumonia, was forced to wait in A&E from 2pm on Monday to 1pm yesterday before a bed could be found for him on a ward.
The Belfast Trust said it had been particularly busy and apologised to those patients who had been left waiting.
As well as bringing in additional staff to try and relieve the pressure, an additional eight beds were opened, the trust said.
Belfast man Robert McClenaghan (73) was rushed by ambulance to the Royal for the third time in two weeks with pneumonia.
His daughter Sharon Deans said that during the 24-hour period that her father was left lying on a trolley, at least 30 other people were also waiting for beds.
"My father arrived in casualty at 2pm (on Monday). He was left lying on a trolley waiting on a bed until about 1pm (yesterday). Him and 30 others were left waiting.
"The whole place was just bunged with people.
"There was no privacy for the patients. All their business was being talked about in front of others. There were people there older than my dad," said Mrs Deans.
She added: "My father is currently so weak he can hardly speak. It was so noisy for him lying there. How could he possibly have got any rest?
"My mum, who is also 73, sat with him the whole time. It is inhumane the way patients are being treated. What about their dignity?
"The Health Minister needs to acknowledge there is a very big problem with our health service."
Mrs Deans said it was the third time in two weeks her father had to be admitted to hospital with the potentially life-threatening infection.
"Both times he was sent home after four days and now he has been readmitted.
"He should not have been sent home the first time until he was better. I believe the only reason he was sent home was to free up a bed," she said.
The Belfast Trust said it had been "extremely busy" and apologised to those affected.
A spokeswoman added: "The staff worked so hard to get people sent through. Eight additional beds were opened up and additional staff brought in. The Trust apologises. We are sorry that people had to wait longer than people would have liked."
Kieran McCarthy MLA, a member of Stormont's health committee, said he was "extremely angry" that "yet again patients have been badly let down".
"This is happening again and again and again, especially at the Royal. The situation does not seem to be improving at all. Something has to be done urgently," said Mr McCarthy.
He added: "We cannot have people waiting on trolleys in A&E for these long periods of time. Our A&Es are being put under too much pressure.
"The Health Minister has to act to address this ongoing crisis immediately.
"I fear for the pressure our hospitals are going to be under throughout the winter months."