THE ELDERLY AND OVERCROWDING – €51,000 AWARDED TO FAMILY OF VICTIM OF ‘MEDICAL MISADVENTURE’
Mrs. Letitia Lawlor was 82 years old when she was admitted to St. Vincents Hospital in August 2013 with a history of falls. Mrs. Lawlor was left on a trolley overnight and reviewed by a consultant the next morning. The side bars of her trolley were lowered so that Mrs. Lawlor could have lunch. She later fell from the trolley and suffered cuts to her head. A post-mortem revealed the cause of death as an acute or chronic subdural haematoma secondary to a fall. An inquest later returned a verdict of medical misadventure.
A case was taken by Mrs. Lawlors daughter Geraldine Eaton against St. Vincents Health Care Group and Mr. Justice Kevin Cross this week approved a settlement in the sum of €51,000.
Geraldine Eaton said outside court ‘we miss her very much and we hope that what happened to her does not happen in any other hospital’
Unfortunately however incidents such as these are inevitable with the current overcrowding problems that plight the A&E departments the length of the country.
Anne Burke an INMO Industrial Relations Officer in the west of Ireland agrees that A&E overcrowding is killing people “theres no doubt that people are being delayed care, through no fault of the nurses but theres no avoiding the fact….. delayed treatment affects patients health and increases the risk of morbidity and mortality. Nurses repeatedly record this on patients forms, that’s a fact”
Irish Association of Emergency Medicine spokesperson Dr. Fergal Hickey pointed to incontrovertible evidence that if patients aged more than 75 years are detained on a trolley for in excess of 12 hours they will suffer worse outcomes “until someone faces up and does something about it people are going to continue to die, who shouldn’t die”
IF THIS MANY PEOPLE WERE DYING IN ANY OTHER WAY,THERE WOULD BE UPROAR OVER IT – WHY IS THE GOVERNMENT FAILING TO ACT?
It is estimated that approximately 300- 375 patients, particularly the elderly are dying due to overcrowding annually because of risks such as greater infection and overstretched hospital staff missing signs of deterioration.
The elderly are vulnerable and are at a higher risk in our overcrowded A&E departments. It is estimated that one in six patents who attend A&E are over the age of 75.
So what do nurses and doctors want to help tackle this problem? More beds for a start, Ireland currently has 2.8 acute beds for every 1000 people, compare this to Japan who has 14 beds for every 1000 people.
Dr Fergal Hickey has said that there is a problem 12 months of the year but it is only highlighted in the media during the winter months when the problem goes from bad to worse. “if you’re over 75 and on a trolley over 12 hours your chances of going home are much less, you end up having a longer stay in hospital and then your chance of returning to independent living is decreased”
Apart from the lack of beds, the other serious problem is the shortage of staff and funding. University Hospital Galway is one example where a new block was built with 75 new beds however only 25 of these beds have been opened due to lack of funding and staff.
This is not a problem that is going to be solved overnight. Drastic measures are required to protect the vulnerable. Tax payers are entitled to a health service and its high time we elected a government willing to meet the problem head on.