The HSE West apologised this week to a 94-year-old Connemara great-grandmother of 34 children who had to spend two nights on a trolley at UHG’s A&E department.
John Hennessy, the regional director of operations with the health authority, said this was not acceptable treatment for the Clifden widow and mother of seven.
Her case was highlighted in this newspaper last week by the chairperson of the HSE West’s regional health forum, Cllr Padraig Conneely, who criticised the “indignity”experienced by Betty Mullen from Sky Road.
Speaking at a meeting of the forum at Merlin Park Hospital on Tuesday Mr Hennessy apologised to Mrs Mullen and her family and assured them that the HSE was doing everything in its power to prevent such a situation happening again.
He said A&E was the shop window of the hospital and it was critical that the HSE gets this first point of contact operating efficiently. The “unfortunate reality” was, however, that there are still “occasional episodes” when services come under pressure, he stated, and incidents like this occur.
He outlined it was a “huge disapppointment” to him that a patient had this experience and it undermined the good work happening at the emergency department. “Our objective is to avoid a repeat of this”.
Mr Hennessy revealed he had discussions with the new clinical director of the hospital about these issues. New measures are in place and are making a difference, he said. However, it was still not acceptable that a patient had to experience this, he said.
Forum chairperson Cllr Padraig Conneely welcomed the apology and said he would relay it to her and her family.
He claimed nothing had changed at the ED, if anything, things had got worse. Mrs Mullen’s case was “absolutely appalling”, he said. “This is a woman who lives alone and she had to endure two nights on a trolley. I find it hard to accept that this is still happening.”
He outlined her seven children were born at UHG and “she had a great time there then”. However, when she was in hospital this time she told him she nearly died on the trolley waiting for a bed.
He warned the regional hospital’s A&E department was “bringing down and wiping into the gutter” the name of UHG and Galway University Hospitals [UHG and Merlin Park].
Cllr Mary Hoade said a sick child spent a night on a trolley at the ED. It was “quite frightening” for young children being left in a corridor, she believed. She said she could not understand what was happening there, it was a good hospital with the best of everything yet it was beset by problems.
In a written reply to a query posed by Cllr Conneely the HSE said it is planning to introduce a number of new measures aimed at easing the pressure on its ED. These include the opening of a medical assessment unit and direct referrals from GPs to this facility, designation of specialised wards, rapid access to out-patients, review of services for care of the elderly, the proposed opening of a surgical assessment unit shortly and increased surgical pre-assessment capacity.