Child with suspected meningitis spent 18 hours on a chair in LUH

A FRENCH child with suspected meningitis endured an 18-hour wait for a bed at Letterkenny University Hospital.

The 15-year-old female student, who was staying with a host family in the county, spent almost a full day in a chair after presenting at the hospital with symptoms of meningitis.

After being told she would be admitted to the Paediatric Ward and waiting for the bed, no bed was actually available.


She was taken back into the care of her host family and was looked after in their home.

Her story comes after a public meeting was held in the Mount Errigal Hotel in Letterkenny on Thursday night organised by Letterkenny Hospital Campaign amid mounting concerns for patient safety.

Chairperson Mary T Sweeney told the Donegal News the meeting heard 10 personal stories recounted.

The young girl’s distressing ordeal has been told by her host, who told Claire Ronan on North West Today Ocean FM of the frightening incident.

“She was starting to display symptoms of meningitis. I tried to get her into a GP first of all and that was a very difficult task because she was a foreign student. Eventually we did get into a GP and they sent her directly to the hospital. She was displaying symptoms of extreme headache and muscular pain. She was in a very bad way.

“When we got to the hospital the triage put her through very fast because of her symptoms but unfortunately that is where the speed hesitated. She had been placed into a room for care where she was given a bed, but within the hour an elderly lady had come in with RSV and they could not have her in with her and they had to put the student back out on a chair, where she remained for a further 18 hours.”

The host told of how at 10am the following morning, the young girl was still waiting to go to the Paediatric Ward, having been told there was a bed available.


“We were then told that there was no bed there and the child should not have been told she was going there.

“She was very frightened, she did not have her parents (with her). We decided that if nothing was going to happen I was going to take her home. The consultant came to me to sign a waiver that I was taking her home against medical advise, which I refused to sign because I had not received any medical advice or care for this child.”

Having gone home with her host, the young student began to lose the power in her legs and had to be brought back to the hospital. She was taken straight to the Paediatric Ward.

When she was examined, swelling was found on her brain and would need a lumbar puncture and MRI scan.

“We had to get her mother over from France.She had to remain in hospital for a number of days until the MRI service was available.

“When she had those procedures it was determined she had viral meningitis but she was over the worst of it.”

The young student’s mother, who is a doctor, arrived from France and the girl was discharged to the care of her mother in the host’s home.

“She was bed ridden after the lumbar puncture. She could not sit up to eat. It was decided she was going to have to fly back to France. She needed further treatment but they (her family) were not confident in the hospital here anymore. She needed to get signed off for a medical flight so she could be lying down.

“An ambulance was called and she had to go through A&E again. The paramedic had to wait with her for an hour before he could do the handover. He told me that the previous week he had to wait with someone for 10 hours – that is an ambulance and a paramedic off our roads.

“After the hour, handover was done and he (the paramedic) had to take the trolley back. We had to make a bed on the floor because she could not stand. She spent the next few hours lying down on the ground on the hall of A&E.”

The host stressed that she was not criticising the staff of LUH, whom she said were “fantastic”, but said the hospital “lacks resources”.

The French student has made a full recovery, and even returned to the county to visit her host family at Halloween.

“It was a slow recovery but she has made a full recovery. I spoke to her mother last night about the campaign. Her mother said the thing that stood out to her about the hospital were the lack of beds and the lack of privacy. When we were on the ward there was a minor with a severe eating disorder and she was being minded day and night and I learned that she was in foster care, had an eating disorder and behavioural issues.”

The host stressed at this point that everyone whom she came into contact with at the hospital was “fantastic” but that the facility “lacks resources”.

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