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‘I’ll never forgive the hospital’


LACK OF COMMUNICATIONAll three families who spoke to The Mayo News this week have said they found it extremely difficult to find out information about the wellbeing of patients once they have been admitted to Mayo University Hospital. Pic: ©The Mayo News

Michael Gallagher

The following are two testimonies from people who experienced Mayo University Hospital recently. One, a devastated daughter recounts the horror of not being able to help her father once he was admitted. The other is from a patient who is frightened a family member will become sick and have to attend at MUH.

My father was totally self-sufficient. He slept in an ordinary bed, walked unaided, cooked for himself and was well able to use the toilet himself.
He went into the hospital with a bladder infection and that was the end of him.
He lived with me. I had all his information – all the medication notes. I knew everything about him, but I wasn’t allowed in and once the doors closed he was on his own. My father, who was such a good man was there on his own, and it breaks my heart.
I spent the first evening and night ringing A&E but the phone just rang and rang and rang. Then, eventually someone answered, but they wouldn’t tell me anything. They just said he was stable. I honestly think they didn’t know a thing about him – they just said that to get me off the phone. There weren’t enough workers there to answer the phone.
I was so worried all that night and the following day I was ringing again, trying to know what was happening, but getting an answer was almost impossible. All myself and the family wanted was to talk to someone dealing with my dad and have a conversation with them. Surely that would be a benefit to his treatment?

We were so anxious about so many things, including whether he was eating or drinking and we wanted to know what treatment he was getting, but nobody would talk to us because they were ran off their feet.
The receptionist did her best but the phone just kept ringing out in the ward. My dad had a mobile phone but it was very hard for him to call because his fingers weren’t very supple. Eventually, after three days I got to talk to someone in the ward and they said my dad was doing well and might be home the following day.
Long story short, I kept ringing looking for information the following day but got nothing until day five when they said my dad could come home as he was back to full fitness again. I went to collect him and I nearly fainted when I saw him. The man they gave back to us was not the man who went into the hospital just a few days earlier.
He had lost so much weight, was unshaven, grubby and confused. He couldn’t walk, couldn’t use the toilet – he had to wear a nappy. He was an absolute shadow of himself. We had to get a special bed into the house for him and get support from the public health services.
A few weeks later my dad was so sick he had to go back to hospital again. It was a last resort. We didn’t want him going in there again.

Savage struggle
Once again, it was a savage struggle to get anyone to give us the slightest bit of information. This was unbelievable. My dad was a good man – a good neighbour, friend, husband, father, grandfather and neighbour. He was a man who had done so much for so many, yet the people in the hospital hadn’t the time to answer the phone and tell us what was happening with him.
One night, someone in the ward helped him phone me and he was completely confused. Can you imagine the horror I was experiencing at that stage? My lovely dad sick and confused and me not able to get in and help him.
In the 15 days my dad was in hospital I got one phone call from the hospital – one – and that was to tell me they were getting him ready for palliative care. I couldn’t believe it. No communication and then news that they were preparing him for death.
We brought him home. I had to travel with him in the ambulance in case he’d die on the journey but he made it home and died here in the house.
I’ll never forgive the hospital. If I had been let in with my dad I’d have been able to talk with the nurses and doctors about him and make sure he was okay. My heart is broken now and I can hardly sleep wondering if they just left food and water in front of him and he couldn’t get them to his mouth no matter how hungry or thirsty he was.
I sent five sets of pyjamas and changes of underwear with him as well as the one he was wearing when he went in. The five sets came back again, unused and folded the way I had sent them in. That says it all. We’re devastated.

I was in hospital for four days and now I’m absolutely frightened. I can hardly sleep, worrying that any of my kids will get sick at some stage and have to end up in there.
Once you go through the doors you’re on your own – there’s nobody allowed in to speak for you and that’s another frightening aspect. Some elderly people aren’t able to speak for themselves, so I don’t know what happens to them.
I felt so alone in there. My partner couldn’t come in and was at home at her wits end when I was having surgery. She had no way of knowing how things had gone because nobody phoned her and it’s almost impossible to get anyone to answer a phone when someone calls a ward from outside. She was at her wit’s end.
When I came back to the ward there was an old man across from me who wasn’t able to walk to the toilet. He had to urinate into a container but of course he missed it sometimes and you could hear the liquid hitting the floor.

Floor never washed
I was there three days after that and at no stage was that floor washed. The cleaners were rushed off their feet I think and there just wasn’t enough of them. One of them did come around and wiped surfaces but the floor wasn’t washed.
Another thing that I can’t get out of my mind is the awful way older people are expected to eat without any help. There was an elderly woman in the ward and the catering people would come and leave the food before her on a tray. She couldn’t move her hands very well and couldn’t really use the fork and knife, so she never really ate any of it. They’d come back 20 minutes later and take the food away again. It’s not the caterers’ fault. They’re not paid to help people eat.
I was so happy to get out of there, but now I’m frightened that one of the kids will get sick and end up in there. I’d do anything possible to keep them out of it.