Minister calls for more streamlined hospital transfers following cycling incident

Denis Naughten must wear spinal brace after being hit by car during cycle over Christmas

Denis Naughten toppled over the handlebars of his bike and landed on his back on the road. File photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Denis Naughten toppled over the handlebars of his bike and landed on his back on the road. File photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins


Minister for Communications Denis Naughten said he suffered soft tissue damage and a spinal injury following a cycling incident earlier this year.

Speaking about the incident and the time he spent in hospital at the height of the trolley crisis, Mr Naughten called for hospital transfers to be more streamlined and for resources to be managed more effectively.

Mr Naughten said he would take time to heal and that travelling, sitting, standing and “those kind of things”’ are all difficult.

The Independent Minister was taken to Portiuncula Hospital by ambulance after he was struck by a passing car while out cycling during the Christmas break.

He had toppled over the handlebars of his bike and landed on his back on the road. He was wearing a helmet at the time, which saved him from more serious injuries.

He is hopeful that he will make a full recovery and that “the medical experts say that I will, over time.”

The Roscommon-Galway TD said that he will he to wear a spinal brace for a few months.

When asked about the day of the accident, he said “I was lying on the flat of my back on the road and I had the paramedics and emergency first responders at the scene working on me.

“For anyone in that situation, you’re lying on the flat of your back, there’s a neck brace being put on you, a head brace and a spinal board. It’s a scary feeling.

“From my own perspective and family perspective having been through the experience of a road traffic death 20 years ago, it brought it all home to me. It’s not something I’d like to anyone else have to experience.

Mr Naughten said that he “really appreciates and acknowledge the work that was done. Not just at the scene of the accident, but in the emergency department in Portiuncula Hospital and the team that worked with me in University Hospital in Galway.”

Mr Naughten was initially brought by ambulance to Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe and then two days later was brought to University Hospital in Galway because of his orthopaedic injuries.

Trolley crisis

He was in Portiuncula at the height of the trolley crisis but said that because he was lying on his back with a neck and head brace and a spinal board, that he say “very little”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show he said, “I was told by staff how difficult the situation was. I could hear what was going on around me, but I didn’t actually see anything. I’ve had a good inspection of the ceilings in both Portiuncula and University Hospital in Galway.”

Mr Naughten said there was “no doubt” but that the staff at Portiuncula Hospital “ were under huge pressure” and that from talking to people he understood that other patients had to wait 10 hours that day to get treatment.

He said the bypass procedure for orthopaedics in Galway University Hospital, when a patient is transferred made the process very streamlined and is something “that needs to be looked at in relation to admission to other wards not just in Galway but across the country.

“People are having to go back through accident and emergency when they’ve already been diagnosed when they could actually be treated on the wards themselves.”

He said the issue was not just about resources or staffing, but how resources are managed.

“This is an opportunity to use minor injury units far more effectively and medical assessment units in smaller hospitals.

“Bypass protocols would allow ambulances to bring patients to smaller hospitals where they could be appropriately treated rather than bringing to an accident and emergency department where they could have to wait hours for treatment.

“In my case if the accident and emergency department in Roscommon had been open I could have had the x-rays and CT scans carried out there and the results read by the orthopaedic consultants in Galway.

“It would have meant there was an ambulance available to go to another 999 call an hour and a half quicker.”