Patient on trolley experienced ‘institutional abuse’

Tallaght hospital consultant claims patient faced ‘sensory torture’ during time in centre

Dr James Gray of Tallaght hospital.

Dr James Gray of Tallaght hospital.


A frail 85-year-old patient was subjected to “sensory torture” by being on a trolley for 29 hours this week, according to a consultant in Tallaght hospital’s emergency department.

Another patient, a man (48) who needs high-dependency care, was languishing on a trolley after 51 hours on Monday night, emergency medicine consultant Dr James Gray said.

“This patient continues to be subjected to constant light and frequent noise going on now for over two full days. How long more will it continue?” Dr Gray asked in an email to hospital and HSE management and to Minister for Health Leo Varadkar.

“This patient is subjected to, in effect, sensory torture, institutional abuse and institutional neglect.”

Nationally, trolley numbers were 40 per cent worse yesterday than on the same day last year – the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation counted 443 patients waiting for admission, compared to 316 a year earlier.

The HSE counted 141 patients who waited more than nine hours for a bed.

Dr Gray said the resuscitation room, in which both patients were, was a “noisy, hectic environment with staff, monitors and alarms, and constant light and frequent noise”.

He described the emergency department as dangerously crowded on Monday, with 56 patients under review, including 15 on trolleys.

Three of these were in the ambulatory care unit, in contravention of fire certification, and six were in patient areas or conduits.

“These unfortunate patients are on open view and have no dignity, no privacy, no confidentiality, [and] constitute an infection control risk.”

“The acute system is broken. No patient should be subjected to this inhumanity and grave risk. If any of these admitted boarders were your loved ones on those trolleys, would you not be incensed and outraged?”

‘Significant improvements’

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil there were significant improvements in Tallaght and other flashpoint hospitals.

He said the trolley figures this week were better than last week but were worse than in the same week last year.

The number of patients on trolleys was 30 per cent lower than five years ago, at the end of the Fianna Fáil government, he said.