Another patient death on trolley is ‘only a matter of time’

Doctor warns of ‘dangerous’ overcrowding in emergency department of Tallaght Hospital

Patients on trolleys “have very poor or no dignity, privacy, confidentiality, suffer constant light and regular noise resulting in sleep deprivation which amounts to sensory torture, and are offered poor standards of infection control”. Photograph: Getty Images

Patients on trolleys “have very poor or no dignity, privacy, confidentiality, suffer constant light and regular noise resulting in sleep deprivation which amounts to sensory torture, and are offered poor standards of infection control”. Photograph: Getty Images

 

It is only a matter of time before another patient dies on a trolley in Tallaght Hospital due to overcrowding in its emergency department, a leading doctor has warned.

This Thursday morning, two patients had spent two days in the emergency department of Tallaght, and 14 were there at least 24 hours, according to Dr Jim Gray, emergency medicine consultant in the hospital.

Ten patients are occupying cubicles that deny ambulance arrivals access and seven are in corridors, Dr Gray said in a letter sent to Minister for Health Simon Harris.

Six patients require isolation for infection control but only one is in a proper isolation room, he said.

“This level of overcrowding of admitted boarders is never acceptable and is dangerous,” Mr Gray said, pointing out that a previous patient death in Tallaght led to a highly critical report by the Health Information and Quality Authority in 2011.

‘Sensory torture’

“Admitted patients have very poor or no dignity, privacy, confidentiality, suffer constant light and regular noise resulting in sleep deprivation which amounts to sensory torture, are offered poor standards of infection control and constitute an evacuation hazard, especially when warehoused on conduits and corridors.

“The resultant entry block into the ED is highly dangerous as undifferentiated patients are left on ambulance trolleys or in the waiting room in a ‘limbo’. We have a five-hour wait to get to see an ED doctor currently. There is no space to see them due to the overcrowding situation.”

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said he was deeply worried about patient safety at Tallaght on foot of Dr Gray’s concerns.

“It’s simply not good enough that nearly 16 months after Minister Harris began his Winter Initiative that one of the busiest hospitals in the country has such consistent levels of overcrowding.

“When senior emergency medicine specialists are concerned about patient safety to the extent that they must contact political parties, it’s a damning indictment of Minister Harris’s failure as health minister to deal with the dangerous levels of overcrowding.”

Nationally, there were 417 patients waiting for admission to hospital on Thursday morning, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, including 29 on trolleys and in wards in Tallaght.