Woman (74) on trolley ‘assaulted by drunk’ in hospital

Woman found on floor ‘screaming in pain’ with broken hip at University Hospital Galway

University Hospital Galway only addressed the family’s concerns after they made a formal complaint. File photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

University Hospital Galway only addressed the family’s concerns after they made a formal complaint. File photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

 

A Garda investigation is under way into the alleged drunken assault of a 74-year-old woman on a hospital trolley in University Hospital Galway who was subsequently found on the floor “screaming in pain” with a broken hip.

The woman was left on a bed for another five hours without an X-ray or medication for pain.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly raised the case in the Dáil, saying the Government had been “put on notice repeatedly about the state of the hospital”.

She said the woman was “allegedly assaulted by somebody who was drunk and roaming about with a carer but not being properly cared for”, and alleged that there was no security at the scene.

The elderly woman had spent 72 hours on a trolley, having been admitted from another hospital with a suspected infection. She was found “screaming in pain” on the floor.

Her family, with no medical training, diagnosed that her hip was broken, but “she was taken back to a bed or trolley and left for five solid hours without having an X-ray or pain relief”.

The hospital only addressed the family’s concerns after they had made a formal complaint. They received a phone call to say an investigation was ongoing, but got no further information.

The Galway West TD said the Government had been told repeatedly about the hospital, that it was “number one on the risk register in terms of capacity”. It was not fit for purpose and had been subject to 13 external reviews in the past decade, and now it looked like there would be another.

Vacancies

Ms Connolly said there were 200 vacancies at the hospital, that a surgical theatre remained closed and that a consultant there described the situation as “unbearable” and that management could not cope.

There were high levels of missed care, delayed care and poor patient outcomes arising from the number of nursing and midwifery vacancies.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed a Garda inquiry is under way, along with another investigation by the hospital authorities. He stressed that he and Minister for Health Simon Harris would follow up on the case and make sure any investigation that should be carried out is carried out.

The Taoiseach said he was very sorry to hear what had happened, and his thoughts were with the woman’s family.

He acknowledged that Ms Connolly had put them on notice and said that while there was a bigger health budget and more people than ever working in the health service, “it is not enough”.

He said there had been considerable investment in the hospital, including a 75-bed block, all with individual rooms, and a budget increase year-on-year over a number of years.

A new emergency department is in planning for the hospital, he said, “which I accept is long overdue.

“As part of the new block, there will be maternity and paediatric services also. We need to get it through planning and start building it.”