An Unhealthy State


Sir, - Maev-Ann Wren's excellent series made interesting reading as I languished in a public ward last week, awaiting surgery for a serious foot injury. I list a number of features which are typical of the experience of a public patient:

After a five-hour wait in casualty, I was told I could not be admitted until the following day, due to a shortage of beds.

Despite having two operations in less than a week, I had almost no opportunity to speak to the consultants. Our fleeting two-three minute meetings were largely information-giving sessions. Follow-up questions were referred to junior doctors, one of whom had only scant information on the planned procedure, the other confessing that it was only his "third day in orthopaedics".

Basic care equipment was either unavailable or in poor repair. For example, the ward had only three dilapidated wheelchairs to serve some 30 patients. I ended up hiring my own wheelchair for the duration of my stay.

On the Saturday after my second operation, the wound dressing had to be changed. This necessitated removal of the cast, which the nurse duly did, only to realise that there was no one available to apply a new one. The doctor on duty, due to end his evening shift, told her to re-use the old cast - even though it had been split, didn't immobilise my foot comfortably, and had a number of bloodstains from the wound.

This is not the standard of patient care one expects in 21st-century Ireland. While I have no doubts about the commitment of all hospital staff - surgeons, doctors, and especially nurses - their good intentions towards all patients, whether public or private, can be realised only in the context of greatly increased resources and appropriate management systems to ensure these resources are deployed effectively.

Does Mr Micheal Martin have any plans in this regard? - Yours, etc.,

Claire Daly, Moy Elta Road, East Wall, Dublin 3.