The West/North West Hospitals Group has admitted that despite ongoing efforts by staff and management at University Hospital Galway “not all emergency department patients are afforded privacy and dignity”.
The admission was made ahead of a lunchtime protest held yesterday by some 50 nurses to highlight poor conditions in the emergency department, which include overcrowding, patients being deprived of care with dignity, and inadequate bed capacity.
The demonstations included members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and SIPTU. The INMO is concerned that the care currently being given at UHG is well outside agreed and internationally accepted protocols and timelines, and that the emergency department is “simply too small” to deal with patient numbers. There is serious concern that the dignity of patients is being compromised with care being provided in corridors and in crowded areas, sometimes involving cases of end of life care. Efforts by nurses to treat all patients with dignity and respect are being hampered by excessive overcrowding, lack of space, lack of vacant beds, and poor staffing levels.
INMO industrial relations officer, Clare Treacy, further explained: “INMO members are gravely concerned for the wellbeing of patients who have to suffer the indignity of being nursed on a corridor for days at a time. The staff in the emergency department, and the INMO, acknowledge the huge effort that nurse management has made in dealing with the situation on a daily basis. However the crisis is now so grave that nurses in the department want a clear plan of action and political intervention to address the problem.”
In its statement the West/North-West Hospitals Group acknowledged the difficulties experienced by patients and also the hard work of the staff throughout the hospital. It continued: “The management of patients and ensuring access to beds is carried out intensely throughout each day by the patient flow team with regular communications to senior clinical management. The build-up of patients in the emergency department awaiting admission is linked to the bed availability throughout the hospital. We have a commitment from community services that more beds will be sourced in the community so that long term care patients can be moved to more appropriate settings, resulting in more acute beds becoming available within the hospital.”
It was also confirmed that the applications of 11 new nurses staff for the emergency department are being processed and nine more job offers have been made. It is also expected that four new paediatric nurses will begin work soon. Hospital management have also provided stress management support for emergency department nursing staff and meetings have taken place with unions on a weekly basis to address day-to-day concerns and requirements. A meeting between management and the nursing union took place on Tuesday afternoon during which there was a “good exchange of views about their concerns”. An application for capital funding is being progressed to update the emergency department building and a specialist in emergency medicine will be appointed shortly to improve patient emergency department pathways across the West/North-West Hospitals Group.