Healthcare news

80-year-old pensioner endures 18-hour trolley wait

Mary Scott has spoken of her concerns for her 80-year-old husband Raymond's life following his 18-hour trolley wait
Seanín Graham

THE wife of a seriously ill 80-year-old suffering from heart and renal failure has spoken of how she "feared for his life" during an 18-hour A&E trolley wait in one of Northern Ireland's biggest hospitals.

Raymond Scott from Belfast was admitted to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald earlier this month after his condition deteriorated and he was referred by his GP.

The former shipyard worker and Merchant Navy seaman has also suffered a stroke on the brain, asbestosis, has no bladder or prostate and requires a catheter bag, has had two hip replacements, an aneurysm and early onset Alzheimers - which had led to hallucinations and falls. He is also deaf in one ear.

When he was admitted by ambulance on Tuesday January 5, he was very weak and had problems with his mobility but no hospital ward beds were available.

His wife Mary (71), who is his sole carer and is recovering from breast cancer, said there were two other frail pensioners on trolleys beside them - one was 98 years old - and described conditions as "chaotic".

A spike in admissions to hospital A&E departments across the north at the beginning of this month led to pleas from health officials that only the most urgent cases attend, just weeks after an £18 million government investment to tackle the crisis.

The Ulster Hospital was worst hit, with a 25 per cent increase in patients attending.

"At one point I was petrified as things had become so bad and was worried there would be a fatality on A&E," Mrs Scott told the Irish News.

"Staff were trying to do their best but it was a disastrous situation. I sat with my husband until midnight and nurses told me to go home and get some rest and ring back at 4am. I telephoned back in the middle of the night but he was still on the trolley.

"They put him on a bed the next morning but he was still in the A&E department and conditions were just the same. He then fell off the bed and landed on his back on the floor."

Mr Scott was moved into an area known as the 'Ambulatory Care Ward' the next day, a holding-type ward where patients are assessed before admission to a dedicated ward and which is staffed by a consultant and nurses.

However, it would take another another day before the frail pensioner was given a bed on a ward for elderly patients - almost 48 hours after his his initial transfer by ambulance to the hospital.

A spokeswoman for the South Eastern Trust, which is responsible for the Ulster Hospital, said pressures facing its emergency department (ED) have been "well documented over recent weeks", with many older people attending, "often with several complex conditions".


"Our staff are to be commended for continuing to deliver excellent care in these challenging circumstances," she added.

The spokeswoman said Mr Scott waited "approximately 14 hours and 42 minutes" on an "A&E trolley", saying that once he was transferred to a "proper" bed in A&E, he was no longer classed as a trolley wait.

But Garrett Martin, deputy director of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said it was "inaccurate" to stop measuring a patient as a "trolley wait" because they are put in a bed - because they are still in "ED conditions".

"This is 'stopping the clock' as the physical environment of an ED is very different to that of a proper ward. If the patient is still in ED, albeit on a bed, then the hospital is absolutely still in breach of the waiting time targets," he said.

"The clock should not have stopped until this patient was admitted to the ambulatory ward – and I would have serious concerns if health trusts are collating information on A&E breaches and providing it to the public in this way."

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