Doctors divided over ‘comfort packs’ for patients on trolleys

St Vincent’s hospital accused of ‘pimping up’ trolleys by giving eye masks and ear plugs

The trial ‘comfort pack’ sees eye masks, ear plugs, a toothbrush and paste, water wipes and socks being given to patients waiting in the emergency department of St Vincent’s hospital

The trial ‘comfort pack’ sees eye masks, ear plugs, a toothbrush and paste, water wipes and socks being given to patients waiting in the emergency department of St Vincent’s hospital

 

An initiative by doctors at St Vincent’s hospital to provide patients waiting on trolleys with a “comfort pack” including eye masks and ear plugs has met with a mixed reaction.

Under a trial programme which began on Wednesday, emergency department patients at the hospital are being provided with a “comfort pack” that also contains a toothbrush and paste, water wipes and socks.

The aim of the initiative is to improve the patient journey and provide a more humane experience for those waiting for a bed, according to emergency medicine consultant Dr Nigel Salter.

“It’s a journey not a destination. Add value at all levels. Tesco are right. Every little counts,” Dr Salter said in response to criticism of the scheme.

He gave the example of an 84-year-old patient who was in the department with a urinary tract infection shortly after midnight.

“Lights on . . . Cardiac alarms going off . . . Bed available by 3am. I guess we’ll just keep her awake – really?”

Waiting for beds

Figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said there were 298 people waiting for beds on trolleys and wards across the State on Friday, 10 of them at St Vincent’s.

Some colleagues praised the initiative but Dr Jim Gray, emergency medicine consultant at Tallaght hospital and an outspoken critic of hospital overcrowding, said it sent out “the wrong message”.

“While the humanitarian gesture by frustrated staff is noble and well-meaning, it could also be seen as an unwitting collusion into the institutional State abuse that sees fit to allow a record 36,000 patients to fester on trolleys in the first four months of 2017.”

“‘Pimping up’ a hospital trolley with comfort pack extras that really only offer a veneer of comfort is always going to be a very poor surrogate for a hospital bed on a ward.”

Dr Salter countered that the trial was about patient care, not “political agendas”.

“This does not delay access to beds. If it does I’d love to know the evidence.”

Chocolates

Meanwhile, HSE director-general Tony O’Brien has dismissed the controversy over giving nurses chocolates to boost immunisation rates as “much ado about nothing”. He also defended a senior official after he was criticised for telling an Oireachtas committee that chocolates and iPad draws work well as incentives to encourage more nurses to get the flu vaccine.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation branded the comments “patronising and insulting” and called on the official, HSE assistant national director for public health Dr Kevin Kelleher, to respect nurses’ decisions not to avail of the vaccine.

Mr O’Brien said Dr Kelleher was relating examples of initiatives that have worked “in reality”.

“Is it now a crime to cite evidence?” he asked in a Twitter post.