Belfast Telegraph

Son of woman (79) who broke her arm tells of 'disgraceful' level of care

By Donna Deeney

The son of a frail pensioner who was discharged from Antrim Hospital with a broken arm without any kind of an aftercare package has accused the Northern Trust of failing his mother.

Margaret Browne (79), who lives alone, fell outside her Ballymena home on Monday evening.

Her son Conor, a researcher who lives in Belfast, was visiting at the time. Quickly realising his mother was badly hurt, he called for an ambulance.

Ninety minutes later when an ambulance still hadn't arrived he cancelled it after he managed to arrange for a neighbour to drive them both to Antrim A&E where it took four more agonising hours before his mother was eventually treated.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Browne said that as awful as his mother's experience in A&E was, the manner in which she was discharged was even more shocking.

"From start to finish, this has been a horrendous experience for my mother, who is a very frail lady - discharged from Antrim Hospital with a broken arm in a sling and left to look after herself," he said.

"The Northern Health Trust expects my mother to wash, dress, undress, cook and get up and down a flight of stairs with absolutely no assistance.

"My mother fell on Monday evening and with the little first aid training I have, I knew she had either dislocated her shoulder or broken her arm, but either way I knew she needed to go to hospital.

"While I was waiting on the ambulance, a paramedic from the Ambulance Service rang me and suggested I gave my mother some pain relief and asked if I couldn't take her myself, but I have epilepsy so that was impossible. An hour and a half later I rang and cancelled the ambulance when a neighbour offered to take us."

Arriving at Antrim A&E, Mr Browne expected that because of his mother's age she would be treated quickly. He said: "When we reached Antrim Hospital it was over four hours before my mother was eventually taken for an X-ray, which showed she did indeed have a broken arm.

"My mother - who is of a generation that suffers quietly and doesn't like to trouble anyone - told me she was in a lot of pain shortly after we arrived at the hospital. I am still angry that she had to wait two hours before someone came with pain relief.

"I would have thought that should have been done when we saw the triage nurse. The whole experience was horrendous, but the way in which she was discharged was nothing short of disgraceful.

"At no stage did anyone enquire about how she was going to manage at home for the next five or six weeks or more with her arm in a sling unable to fend for herself. She can't cook for herself, she can't wash, dress or undress herself with her right arm out of action, but no-one at the Trust was interested in any of this as she was being discharged.

"I have had to leave my home in Belfast and move in with her, but I am due to start a new job in Bangor so I can't be here much longer. My mother really needs professional help from someone who can wash, dress and undress her without hurting her, but the Trust just abandoned her. They have failed her miserably."

After the Belfast Telegraph contacted the Northern Trust for a response, Mrs Browne received a visit from a social worker to discuss a care plan.

A Trust spokeswoman said: "Mrs Browne was triaged (assessed by a nurse) soon after arrival in the Emergency Department and pain management was considered at this stage.

"Medication was given at 10pm. During her assessment, treatment and discharge from the ED, no concerns were raised with staff about arrangements for her ongoing care when she returned home. Since Monday, the Northern Trust has not been contacted regarding providing support for Mrs Browne.

"A social worker was arranged to visit Mrs Browne yesterday to discuss her needs and assess what services are available.

"We are disappointed that Mrs Browne and her son are unhappy with the care she received."

A spokesman for the Ambulance Service apologised "for the delay in responding to the initial call and provision of transport to hospital". He added: However we were extremely busy with other calls in the area that were of a more serious nature."

Belfast Telegraph

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