Authorities must end A&E chaos
In recent months there have been many stories about the chaos which occurs too frequently in the Emergency Department of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.However, the experience of a patient on Saturday night almost beggars belief. Shortly after 6pm, Tommy Hall called an out-of-hours doctor because his mother had a serious chest infection and was experiencing pain.
Almost four hours later she was seen by the doctor who diagnosed pneumonia and immediately sent her to the Royal. Unfortunately, however, she was placed on a trolley in the waiting area, where she spent the night.
She was not seen until 6.30am, given penicillin, and sent home with antibiotics and steroids because there were no beds available. This is not an ideal way to treat an elderly woman with a serious respiratory condition.
Mr Hall told of earlier scenes at the Emergency Department, with 11 ambulances waiting to discharge patients, as well as chaotic scenes involving drunks and self-harmers among those waiting to be seen.
Mr Hall praised the professional staff who had to work in such conditions, and a spokeswoman for the Belfast Health Trust also thanked the staff, as well as apologising for the inconvenience caused.
No doubt this was sincere, but an apology is not enough. What is urgently needed is a whole new approach to emergency care, because the present arrangements are clearly not working.
Mrs Hall's experience on Saturday night is a wake-up call for the authorities, and the Health Minister Jim Wells must make her case the centre of an inquiry into the obvious failings of the system.
In this day and age, we should not have to suffer such inconvenience and distress. In a modern society, an efficient and reliable health service should be a priority for everybody.
It is bad enough for people to have to be taken to a hospital emergency department without the added worry of wondering how long they will have to wait for treatment, and the added distress and even health danger that a protracted wait might produce.
There are many demands on public money in a time of severe cutbacks to public services, but we need to listen more to patients who have experienced such chaos in our health provision, and less to politicians and their high-sounding declarations.