Bereaved families criticise lack of privacy in hospitals

New report outlines concerns of people whose loved ones died in Mater or St James’s

While some Mater and St James’s patients had positive experiences of pain management, some were annoyed there was no palliative care at weekends.

While some Mater and St James’s patients had positive experiences of pain management, some were annoyed there was no palliative care at weekends.

 

Lack of privacy, absence of palliative care at weekends, unclear communication and car parking fees were among concerns raised by people whose loved ones had died in an acute hospital.

The findings are contained in a study published on Thursday, the largest of its kind undertaken in Ireland, of bereaved families’ experience of losing someone in a hospital.

The next-of-kin of 792 people who died in the Mater hospital or St James’s Hospital between August 1st 2014 and January 31st 2015 were surveyed, of which 356 responded in full.

The report, Voices MaJam (a combination of the names of the hospitals), finds 90 per cent of respondents said their loved one was treated with dignity and respect, as were relatives, though some reported negative experiences.

“Many highlighted good communication practices . . . However many were dissatisfied with the type and level of communication received.”

One respondent said: “ It now appears a pure lack of communication contributed to him not being transferred back to his local general hospital where he had a bed, thus not allowing him to die with dignity and support of those he loved.”

Seven out of 10 respondents said their relative died in a private room. “Relatives highlighted the need for privacy and viewed care in a single room as a key . . . [in] good care at the end of life.”

‘Everyone can hear your business’

One person commented: “We as a family never had a family room to talk to Mam in private. Everyone can hear your business in wards. Even on her last day when we were advised to come in, we had nowhere to make a cup of tea or sit in private. We had to use a storage room which just adds to your distress.”

While some patients had positive experiences of pain management, some were annoyed there was no palliative care at weekends. “I found it strange that the ‘hospice team’ did not work weekends,” commented one. “My mother died on a Sunday and we could have done with their support.”

On parking, one person said: “The cost of parking was outrageous. Given that we were there for 11 weeks it would have been nice if family could get some help with this.”

Publishing the report, the Ombudsman Peter Tyndall, said of the 33,000 people who die in Ireland annually, about 13,200 will die in an acute hospital.

“Each and every one of us has a vested interest in ensuring end of life care the best it can be. Those moments at the end of a loved one’s life are extremely precious and will be relived over and over.”

The report makes 21 recommendations under seven headings, including that hospitals address communication issues, provide single rooms where appropriate, in a timely manner, and review management of the needs of dying patients at weekends.