Adults placed in paediatric wards due to overcrowding, consultant claims

Emergency medical consultant Dr Jim Gray calls situation in Tallaght Hospital to ‘State institutional abuse’

File photograph: iStock

File photograph: iStock

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Adult patients are being placed in paediatric wards in Tallaght Hospital due to the level of overcrowding, a consultant doctor has said.

Emergency medical consultant Dr Jim Gray told Newstalk radio on Friday that patients are now being placed in walkways between cubicles because there is such an acute shortage of space.

Dr Gray likened the current situation in Tallaght Hospital to “State institutional abuse” of patients, who he said are too afraid to speak out about their own suffering.

“You’ve got a scenario where you have adult patients cohorted and warehoused in a paediatric ward.

“It’s just desperation stakes, how low can we go here in terms of how to manage this never-ending trolley crisis?,” said Dr Gray, who has consistently been an outspoken critic of the way in which the health service is run.

His account follows reports of male and female patients having to cohabit in mixed wards in other hospitals because of the trolley crisis.

He added: “We have patients in inappropriate spaces in our emergency department where we’ve got trolleys designated 1.5, 2.5, 3.5 and so on. What that means is we’ve got cubicles 1 to 18 and in between each of those cubicles is a potential space for a trolley.

“It’s an inappropriate space, it’s not a clinical area it’s a conduit outside the cubicles around the emergency department where there’s constant light, regular noise, there’s staff coming and going who are working in very difficult conditions.

“This is State institutional abuse, let’s be very clear what this is … most of the patients feel voiceless and they don’t want to cause perceived difficulties for themselves if they speak out.”

There were 551 people waiting on trolleys for beds across Irish hospitals on Wednesday, down from the all-time peak of 677 recorded by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation on January 3rd.

Medical professionals have warned that the overcrowding situation may be exacerbated with the peak of flu season potentially set to hit over the coming week.

Speaking to The Irish Times on condition of anonymity, a junior doctor in a regional hospital in the southeast of the country said some patients with serious medical difficulties are discharging themselves after waiting over a day for care.

“You have patients who are actually discharging themselves against medical advice. We had one non-Irish gentleman who basically got fed up of having to wait, he was there for over 24 hours.

“He needed consistent transfusions but decided that because he was due to go home the next day he was going to discharge himself and go to a hospital in his home country,” the doctor said.

As of last week he said the hospital in question was not seeing a huge amount of flu cases, and that this did not appear to be the underlying cause of overcrowding in that hospital at least.

The medic added that staff are struggling through illness themselves because they do not want to “shaft” their colleagues under difficult circumstances.

“There’s a lot of illness in the staff at the moment, you can see there’s quite a few of them suffering with viral infections including the flu in one or two cases.

“The problem with that is that there just isn’t the staffing level to replace people who are off sick,” said the doctor, who remarked that he himself had been working through a laryngitis infection for a period of time.

He further described the “dangerous situation” in the hospital, which included having to examine sick people in a slumped position in chairs rather than lying down on a bed or trolley due to the lack of availability.

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