One hundred patients a year die due to overcrowding, says hospital chief

Head of Waterford’s emergency department made claim in series of private emails

In an email on December 20th last, Dr Brendan McCann wrote ‘At UHW, this is about two a week or more than 100 a year. I would also point out that our waits are longer than six hours so the figure is likely to be higher.’ Photograph: Google Maps

In an email on December 20th last, Dr Brendan McCann wrote ‘At UHW, this is about two a week or more than 100 a year. I would also point out that our waits are longer than six hours so the figure is likely to be higher.’ Photograph: Google Maps

 

One hundred patients a year who have attended University Hospital Waterford (UHW) die as a result of the overcrowding they experienced during their stay, the head of the hospital’s emergency department (ED) has charged.

In a series of private emails before Christmas, the Service Lead in UHW’s emergency department, Dr Brendan McCann roundly criticised the Health Service Executive and the Minister for Health, Simon Harris.

He highlighted new research carried out by two National Health Service doctors in the United Kingdom, which suggested that “1 in 83 patients waiting over 6 hours” die as a direct result of delays .

Staff 'have been exploited cynically by leaders who understand that it is cheaper to herd patients like cattle'

In an email on December 20th last, Dr McCann wrote “At UHW, this is about two a week or more than 100 a year. I would also point out that our waits are longer than six hours so the figure is likely to be higher.”

Staff “have been exploited cynically by leaders who understand that it is cheaper to herd patients like cattle” into an ED “bursting at the seams than admit them anywhere else that might give them some dignity”.

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In the emails, Dr McCann expressed frustration with the hospital’s management who he said had “sanctioned overcrowding” in recent meetings by “refusing to meaningful address” overcrowding.

‘Overcrowding apartheid’

The Waterford News & Star reported that a plan to alleviate overcrowding was put to hospital management before Christmas where patients would be moved out of the ED to unused parts of the hospital.

The plan, he said on December 20th, would improve flow, lessen delays and save lives,” Dr McCann said, adding that it would “be more constructive” if management had offered solutions rather than damn the plan proposed.

We have had no meaningful support from management regarding these issues – ever

“The overcrowding apartheid at UHW is an obscenity, which management – via the Executive Management Board (EMB), continue to sanction and the bed managers continue to organise”, he complained.

In the email sent to the Clinical Lead for Medicine and Emergency Medicine, Donncha O Gradaigh, Dr McCann said staff have faced “years of inaction from directorate and management level regarding our daily chaos”.

“How long would you continue to come to work under the conditions that we experience every day? How long would management last? We have had no meaningful support from management regarding these issues – ever.

“The staff in the ED have been exploited cynically by leaders who understand that it is cheaper to herd patients like cattle in an ED bursting at the seams, than admit them anywhere else that might give them some dignity.”

Some patients are being housed in offices next to the ED even though many wards elsewhere are taking care of just one extra patient each: “There are plenty of places in this hospital more suitable than our office. Why do we house 90 per cent of the excess all of the time?”

Dr McCann was contacted for a comment about the emails and replied that they were “internal emails between hospital staff, but he absolutely stood over the content of them”.