A man whose car crashed ten minutes from Letterkenny hospital was told it would take four hours for an ambulance to arrive.
The shocking situation unfolded during what has been an extremely challenging week for the health service.
On Monday alone 116 people attended Letterkenny’s emergency department. As of 8am on Tuesday there were 56 patients awaiting admission.
The hospital has also been treating 50 patients for Covid while a further 31 are being seen for flu and respiratory illness.
The Donegal News spoke to two women about their experiences.
One revealed how she attended the hospital on Monday night with a relative who had been involved in a car accident.
The victim spent eight hours waiting on a bed until they got so frustrated that they discharged themselves.
A second woman who visited the emergency department yesterday branded the situation “a joke”.
The woman whose relative was hospitalised due to the crash said that while nurses and other workers were doing their best to provide assistance, it was obvious they were under extreme pressure.
“I got a call about midnight to say a family member had been in an accident,” she said.
“The man who came upon the accident rang an ambulance but was asked if he could get him to the hospital because it would be four hours minimum before an ambulance would be available.
“I went on to the emergency department to meet them and on the outside it didn’t look too bad.”
The injured man was seen quickly by a trauma nurse and taken through for treatment. There though it became apparent just how busy the hospital was.
“They took him through but he didn’t get very far because there was nowhere to put him. You had people waiting in chairs, you had people with their feet up on chairs because the beds weren’t available for them. The staff were doing their best, they were coming with tea and biscuits and reassuring people. But it was just so over-crowded.
“I only have good things to say about the staff because they went above and beyond but it was incredibly busy.
“One woman I spoke to told me she had been there since 3pm and had waited in an ambulance for four hours. The paramedics couldn’t get the ambulance cleared because the hospital couldn’t take the patients.
“It definitely wasn’t the staff at fault. I heard one nurse telling a lady that if she could give up her own bed, she would. They are doing all they can and things like bloods, a CT scan, that was all done quite quickly. It just seems that there aren’t enough beds.”
The woman said the problem does appear to have worsened in recent weeks. She visited the hospital in mid-December with another relative and experienced no delays.
“The nurses, the security staff, the porters, everyone is doing a fantastic job and they are so accommodating. My heart goes out to them because they look exhausted.”
She added that anyone looking for treatment for a non-urgent condition should prepare themselves for a “long wait”.
Separately, a woman told this newspaper how she had been in the emergency department since 2am yesterday. She said she had spoken to another person who had been there since 6pm on Tuesday.
“Two people, including a woman who was pregnant, left because they were here all evening. It’s a joke, they need more doctors,” she said.
The crash victim’s family outlined the hospital situation to Aontú member Mary T Sweeney. She said “enough was enough” and that only a complete overhaul of the health system would fix the current crisis.
“It needs to start with opening additional step down beds, not closing them.”
In a statement on Tuesday Saolta said Letterkenny University hospital (LUH) remained under “significant pressure” as a result of high attendances along with Covid and flu outbreaks.
“Every effort is being made to discharge patients who are ready to go home so that beds will become available for patients who need to be admitted at the earliest opportunity,” said Saolta.
“LUH is committed to treating everyone who presents at the emergency department. People who are seriously injured or ill are assessed and treated as a priority. Those who do not require urgent care will be waiting longer.
“The hospital understands that these delays are very difficult for patients and their families and apologise for the inconvenience and distress these delays cause. If your health problem is not an emergency you should in the first instance contact your GP during normal surgery hours or the GP out of hours service.”
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