A Clonmel man shocked by the sight of elderly patients having to be accommodated on trolleys in corridors in South Tipperary General Hospital because of a lack of beds, has called on the county’s TDs and senator to come spend a night at the hospital and witness the overcrowding.
Derek Gibbons, who spent a night on a trolley at the Clonmel hospital earlier this month, has particularly directed his call to government Fine TD Tom Hayes and Labour Senator Denis Landy to come visit the hospital and see the conditions patients on trolleys are having to endure.
The 46 year-old from Abbey Meadows, Clonmel has decided to speak out about what he witnessed because he was angered and moved by the number of helpless and distressed older people on trolleys in the hospital while beds were closed due to government cutbacks.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation Trolley Watch Survey shows that in recent months the incidence of patients having to be accommodated on trolleys until a bed becomes free for them has become a regular occurrence at STGH.
According to the survey’s reports for last week there were 13 patients on trolleys at the hospital on Monday, June 18 and this rose to 20 patients on trolleys on Tuesday, June 19 while 16 patients were reported on trolleys at the hosptial last Wednesday and Friday with 12 on trolleys on Thursday.
Mr Gibbons spent the night on a trolley on a corridor off the Emergency Department’s on Thursday night/ Friday morning June 14 and 15 after being admitted for an ailment in his arm. He was treated at the hospital up until Tuesday, June 19.
He stressed that the hospital’s nursing staff and doctors were “absolutely fantastic” at all times in the care they gave in difficult conditions to all the patients and they were deeply frustrated by the situation.
Mr Gibbons was shocked by the number of patients on trolleys, particularly the number of elderly people, and angered at the lack of privacy and dignity they had.
There was little changing facilities for them and they had to use the hospital’s public toilets. Patients had to share screens and it was very difficult for doctors to speak to patients privately about their illnesses.
Patients found it very difficult to sleep on the trolleys due to the general noise of the hospital around them and people passing by, though he pointed out that staff did try to keep the corridors trolleys were on free of traffic as much as possible.
Mr Gibbons pointed out that accommodating patients on trolleys in corridors was a fire safety hazard and also posed obvious infection control dangers. The trolleys also posed difficulties for cleaning staff, who had to physically move them from one side of the corridor to the other when cleaning.
“I would like to put it up to the politicians and invite them from all parties to spend a night in the Emergency Department and experience first hand the despicable conditions and see what they are going to do to change them. This is obviously a nationwide problem. Is this what we have to look forward to as we get older? It’s a sad reflection on our society that we tolerate this. The key thing is what we do about it,” he said.
Mr Gibbons called for an independent assessor to be appointed to look at the cost inefficiencies within the HSE and where savings in non-frontline areas could be redirected to frontline medical care and staffing in hospitals.
He questioned the savings the HSE is making by closing beds at South Tipperary General Hospital and other hospitals and also the value of cutting medical staff numbers when nurses were having to do overtime and hospitals like STGH were having to employ agency nurses to make up to shortfall.
The Nationalist put the point raised by Mr Gibbons to the HSE and also requested information on bed closures and staff cutbacks at the hospital.
The HSE issued the following statement, which failed to respond or answer many of the issues put to it.
“The Emergency Department (ED) at South Tipperary General Hospital (STGH) in Clonmel is busy on a continuous basis. On average, 108 people present at the ED in Clonmel each day – 21 of whom, on average, are admitted.
“From time to time, a surge may occur in patients presenting to the Emergency Department at STGH and this has been the case recently.
“Due to this increased level of activity, the HSE/STGH regret that some patients may experience a delay in being transferred from the ED to a hospital bed.
“The HSE apologises for the inconvenience caused and wishes to assure patients/clients and the general public that staff work particularly hard to minimise any inconvenience that arises.
“Patient care is paramount in STGH and this situation is being treated as a priority by hospital management and is being reviewed continuously.”
The statement went onto say that additional staff have been brought in to the Emergency Department to ensure patient care and safety.
“Hospital Management wishes to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of all staff during this busy time, who try to ensure that all those waiting for treatment and admission are accommodated in a manner that is dignified and respectful in the circumstances.
“The Hospital also continues to work closely with the Special Delivery Unit.”
The statement also pointed out that on Monday afternoon four patients at STGH were awaiting admission to a ward.
“A comprehensive bed management policy is in operation in the Hospital and ensures that bed occupancy is managed efficiently and within the available bed compliment,” the HSE added.