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Patients ‘left on trolleys like trash’


Frightening testimony from MUH Emergency Department worker

Michael Gallagher

So great is the volume of patients and so restricted is the space in the Emergency Department of Mayo University Hospital that ‘the dignity of patients is gone’.
That’s according to one healthcare worker in the Emergency Department who has witnessed first-hand the impact of the current overcrowding crisis at the hospital.
In recent weeks, overcrowding has been a big issue at MUH and across the country. Trolley numbers at MUH reached record levels in 2022.
Speaking to The Mayo News on the condition of anonymity, the experienced member of staff painted a grim picture.
“If any of my family or friends were sick and needed to go to an Emergency Department and asked me what to do, I’d tell them to go to Galway,” the staff member said.
“Some people are left on trolleys like trash. Staff don’t have the time to do the patient care that is required because the place is so busy and then there isn’t space to do things properly.
“If someone on a trolley soils themselves, there is nowhere to bring them to clean them. It happens all the time unfortunately and things are so bad it is nearly not a big deal now. The dignity of patients is gone.

‘I didn’t sign up for this’
“The volume of patients is huge,” they continued. “You have elderly people with no space to change themselves. You think, it could be someone belonging to you. You are so busy that you cannot do what you want to help them. It is soul destroying.
“It is no place to bring elderly people. Many of them are so confused,” they added.
The frontline worker described the past month as the ‘worst spell by a long shot’ in a long career in healthcare.
“You hear Colm Henry, the Chief Clinical Officer with the HSE saying it hasn’t peaked – I shuddered when I heard that. How can it get worse?
“The HSE and the Government are completely burying their heads in the sands. This Emergency Department is not fit for purpose.
“I’d love if someone came in with a hidden camera and walked around. They would be absolutely shocked. You have to experience it to see how bad it is.
“Staff are doing their best but it is like working with your hands tied behind your back. You’re asked to do a job of ten people.
“I didn’t sign up for this. I’m completely demoralised. Everyone who is working there is looking for the exit door,” they said.

‘Granny dumping’
Issues such as Covid-19 and Influenza A and B have heightened the use of Emergency Departments in recent weeks, but, according to this healthcare worker, plenty of people coming through the doors have been using the Emergency Department inappropriately.
“We had a young adult male who rang an ambulance with a sore throat. Ambulance drivers are worn out too.
“We’re getting inappropriate admissions from nursing homes who should not be sending elderly people in here at the moment. You would feel so sorry for them because this is not the place for them,” said the healthcare worker.
They added that many Ukrainian refugees present at the Emergency Department because they have not been assigned a GP yet, while a bizarre phenomenon known as ‘granny dumping’ also takes its toll.
“Over the Christmas we saw a lot of what is known as granny dumping. It is where people leave elderly relatives into hospital over the Christmas because they can’t deal with them. People that they might think are a bit of an inconvenience. They are called social admissions and the family collect the following week. It happens all over the world. It was definitely into double figures here. One such patient ended up on a trolley for four days.”

Non compliance
The pressure the Emergency Department is under can often lead to stress for patients and their families, as well as staff.
“Relatives are fearful for their family members and they often take out their frustration on us because we are the faces they see,” said the healthcare worker.
Many workers have left in the past year and have been replaced by workers who have come to Ireland from other parts of the world.
“We’ve a lot of Indian staff who have come in here and only for them, we’d be in an even deeper hole,” added the healthcare worker.
The Emergency Department at Mayo University Hospital was subject to a damning HIQA report which was released in December. The hospital was found to be non-compliant in three areas, all relating to the Emergency Department.
The ED was found to be non-compliant in terms of staffing and in terms of ‘person-centred care and support’, highlighting how overcrowding issues were compromising the ‘dignity, privacy and autonomy’ of patients.
Those HIQA inspections took place last summer.

‘Unprecedented pressures’
In response to queries from The Mayo News, the Saolta Hospital Group acknowledged that there are capacity issues in Castlebar.
“Mayo University Hospital, like all hospitals across the country, has in recent weeks experienced extreme and unprecedented pressures across the hospital site and Emergency Department. The impact of these pressures is being borne by both our patients who need our assistance and our staff who have once again stepped up to meet those challenges and work hard to ensure we are doing the best we can for all our patients.
“We regret that patients are experiencing long wait times. We are working as hard as we can to provide services to those patients and to support our staff.  We also thank all health service staff, in hospitals and in community services, for their commitment to working through this incredibly difficult period whilst also providing cover for staff who may be on sick leave.
“We acknowledge that there are capacity issues, but we have strong nursing and medical teams in our Emergency Department who on a daily basis look after patients, resulting in good outcomes and saving lives in emergency situations.”
The group also said that capacity issues at Mayo University Hospital are being explored.
“MUH is focused on the capacity needs on the site. The planned new ED and Acute Medical Assessment Unit (AMAU) will increase space for both admitted and non-admitted patients. It will double the resuscitation bay capacity and free up the AMAU.
“The hospital is also working with HSE Estates technical function to progress updating the Development Control Plan and ward feasibility study for MUH with the intention to progress a new 75 bedded ward block with 50 new and 25 replacement beds.”