Fianna Fáil deputy for Roscommon-Galway, Eugene Murphy says an over reliance on acute hospital settings is resulting in unnecessarily long waiting periods for many elderly people in A& E departments throughout the country, and is evidence of a health system unfit for purpose.
Deputy Murphy highlighted the case of a 90-year-old woman who was left waiting on a trolley at Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinalsoe for seven hours following an x-ray for a minor fracture.
“While the staff in Portiuncula were very kind to this lady, they are operating under very difficult circumstances and are under extreme pressure. This 90-year-old lady was transferred from x-ray to the A&E where she was left waiting for seven hours on a trolley. Understandably she was very distressed,” Deputy Murphy said.
The woman attended an appointment at Merlin Park the following day where she was given the all clear for a minor fracture.
“The point is, did this lady really need to be sent to the A&E at all?”, asked Deputy Murphy.
The Roscommon-Galway TD also spoke of cases where older people were brought into Portiuncula Hospital to be placed on ventilators for a few hours due to respiratory problems, pointing out that these interventions could be dealt with elsewhere.
At the beginning of this year, hospitals in the Midlands saw record levels of overcrowding in A&E departments, prompting the Irish Nurses and Midwives Association to declare the situation a “national emergency”.
“We always have these type of record numbers each January,” said Deputy Murphy. “It should not come as any big surprise to the HSE as it happens every year. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result; well in that case we surely have an insane health service!”
With only 67 per cent of patients admitted or discharged within six hours, waiting times in Irish emergency departments are significantly longer than in the UK, where a maximum wait of four hours is the norm.
“All of this points to a health service unfit for purpose. We spend more per head of population on health care than most other European countries, yet we still have a totally ineffective service,” concluded Deputy Murphy.