Campaign seeks to cure system’s ills

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Cara Wynne

IN January 2019, I wrote an opinion piece for The Irish Voice telling my dad’s story of his last 36 hours on a trolley in the Emergency Department (ED) corridor at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) where he died. In that piece I spoke at length around the conditions staff and patients have to deal with day-in, day-out, which wouldn’t be out of place being reported in the news from a far-flung, war-torn country.

Since that comment was published, the ‘trolley crisis’ has worsened with individual hospitals across Ireland regularly reporting numbers upwards of 80 people waiting on trollies. Indeed, the Irish Nurses and Midwifes Organisation (INMO) reported on November 28 that 2019 was the worst ever year for patients without beds in the Irish Health Service with 108,364 patients admitted to hospitals without beds being available.

I also spoke about the lack of media coverage and lack of political will to raise the issue of the ‘trolley crisis’ and overcrowding especially in hospitals along the western seaboard—from Donegal right down to Cork. There have been occasions where the daily numbers of people on trollies in one hospital is almost the same as the total number of people on trollies in all hospitals in the Dublin region.

Campaign
The Mid-West Hospital Campaign (above) was formed in August 2019 and is a non-party political campaign based around UHL and University Hospital Galway (UHG) and is an amalgamation of Friends of Ennis Hospital, Save St John’s and Nenagh Needs Its A&E groups.

Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s were closed in 2009 and promises were made that UHL would become a centre of excellence where people from the Mid-West could attend. However, the reality is very different. Some of the results for the people of Clare, Limerick, North Tipperary, North Cork, East Kerry and South Galway include:

  • Massively increased waiting lists for most procedures
  • Record number of patients on trollies
  • People spending up to five to six days on a hospital trolley, in a corridor
  • Inhumane conditions, limited access to washing and toileting facilities
  • Limited access to nutritious food
  • Trollies top to toe, on both sides of corridors with narrow gap in between for access.

The result for both patients and staff is intolerable. Staff are finding it increasingly difficult to cope. They are stressed by both working conditions, lack of support and pressure from both management and patients.

Patients in EDs are unable to rest or sleep for any period of time due to bright lighting constantly on overhead, patients on trollies, are constantly moved to allow for medical and cleaning equipment to moved from one area to another, intimate patient history is taken in full earshot of anyone in those corridors with no consideration for privacy.

Support and coverage
Since the campaign began I and other members of the campaign have received numerous contacts from families who have loved ones in EDs at UHL and UHG and who are trying to navigate a failing system. They have nowhere to turn, they are at loss as to how advocate for their family members when they are at their most vulnerable and we do our upmost to advocate for them, offer them support and guidance as they move through the system or be an a listening ear to them when no one else is listening.

Our campaign is gaining traction and we are receiving increasing coverage in local media in the Mid-West. Questions are starting to be asked as to why the government is continuing to fail the people of the Mid-West in providing second rate healthcare and why they are failing to address the elephant in the room—a system that is rotten from the top down, with inadequate management who are failing to address the real issues in our hospitals. These issues include: a lack of beds, a moratorium on employing nurses, a failure to address consultant contracts, which consequently means consultants are leaving the Irish Health Service in droves and the inability to appoint new consultants into these posts.

We are receiving messages of support from across Ireland and beyond as well as interest from communities in Kerry and Galway who are looking to set up similar campaigns in their areas to agitate for a better health service in their local hospitals. It is our hope that in 2020 we see similar campaign groups being set up along the western sea board and we can work together to bring a real change to the health service for our family, friends, colleagues and those working within our hospitals.

If you are interested in supporting the campaign or finding out more, log onto Facebook and like the page: http://www.facebook.com/MidWestHospitalCampaign

You can also follow the campaign on Twitter: @HospitalMidWest

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