The Dublin government’s failures in the health sector have been dramatically highlighted by a hospital whistleblower, who revealed this week that a 91-year-old man with Parkinson’s Disease had endured almost 30 hours on a trolley in a Dublin hospital corridor.
The pensioner was forced to lie on a trolley for 29 hours at Tallaght Hospital on Monday while his wife, also 91, spent nine hours on a trolley at the same facility.
In a leaked memo, emergency department consultant Dr James Gray revealed that the frail patient, whose condition is at an advanced stage, was left to “fester” in a conduit. He had no privacy or dignity and had suffered sleep deprivation because of the lights and noise, he said.
“Nobody of any age should be subjected to this inhumanity”.
Figures released by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) show that an incredible 8,000 patients, the population of a typical Irish town, were left waiting on trolleys for a bed in hospitals across the 26 County state last month.
There were more than 400 people on trolleys in emergency departments or wards on any given day this week, with 34 in Tallaght Hospital alone.
Speaking on state television, Dr Gray said the state’s trolley and staffing crises were escalating, adding: “Staffing is at crisis level, not just on the nursing side but also the medical side.
“We can’t recruit because the conditions are so poor and it’s a vicious circle. So not only do the beds need to come on stream, the staff need to come on stream as well and I don’t see this happening any time soon.”
A recent OECD report shows Irish health outcomes are among the worst in the western world. Ireland ranks in the bottom third internationally in many of the measures of health performance.
In the Dublin parliament, Taoiseach Enda Kenny responded bizarrely by lashing out at his own government’s failures, without accepting responsibility. He said the experience of the 91-year-old pensioner and his wife of almost 60 years was a “shocking example of a dysfunctionality in the system”.
“Who was the person responsible for leaving that person there?” he fumed.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that both the Taoiseach and Health Minister Leo Varadkar “must” accept responsibility for the ongoing crisis.
Sinn Féin’s health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin described the elderly couple’s ordeal as “truly shocking”.
“Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident. In December 2014 a 87-year-old woman spent 57 hours on a trolley and on a chair in a hall in university hospital Limerick.
“In June 2015 two elderly ladies, both over a hundred years old, had to suffer the indignity of spending more than 24 hours on a trolley awaiting a hospital bed.
“In September 2015 an elderly cancer patient spent five days on a trolley at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda,” he added.