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Facing a delay of four hours, I went home with painkillers

Suffering from a suspected broken finger after a fall, I braved the emergency department at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast yesterday afternoon.

It was probably not the ideal day to attend casualty given the "high level of pressure" warning issued by the Public Health Agency and the request for patients to stay away unless their case was urgent. Unfortunately, I was unaware of it at the time.

Before I even walked into the emergency room I became aware that this may not be a typical day, as there were a good few people waiting outside.

My suspicions were confirmed as I entered to see almost every seat in the department taken.

Most people waiting there appeared to be suffering from minor injuries such as twisted ankles, cuts and bruises.

As a triage system operates in the department, the more seriously hurt are prioritised and taken to the treatment rooms first.

Asking how long the wait would be to be seen, the reception clerk informed me that a period of around four hours was likely, with "only" around two-and-a-half hours possible, as there were 70 people waiting for treatment.

I explained the nature of my injury and was advised that if I could tolerate the discomfort, I would be better coming back in the morning when there would be fewer patients.

I was also warned not to leave it until the afternoon as patient numbers build during the day, as do waiting times.

Speaking to some of my fellow walking wounded, this seemed to be no exaggeration, with one woman complaining she had been there several hours and was now scared to go outside for fresh air and to stretch her legs in case she was called and missed her place.

Given my relatively minor injury, which little can be done for in any event, I decided go home with some painkillers rather than end up with a sore posterior as well from sitting for hours on the benches in the Royal's emergency room.

Belfast Telegraph