Woman’s 26 hours in hospital’s emergency department

A WOMAN has told of how she found her medical file on top of a bin and endured a 26-hour ordeal at Letterkenny University Hospital’s emergency department.

The Letterkenny woman was referred by her doctor to the emergency department for a brain scan on Monday and arrived at the facility at 4pm to “absolute chaos”.

The woman, who does not wish to be named, said there were in excess of two hundred patients in the emergency department, and described the environment as “dirty, frantic and frightening”.


Speaking to the Donegal News, she said: “I was told by my doctor to go to the emergency department for a brain scan. When I arrived at the hospital my blood pressure was through the roof, it was 202/90. It was checked a total of five times in 26 hours.

“I didn’t have my first consultation until after 18 hours in the emergency department, and that happened in front of strangers. I wasn’t taken to anywhere private, therefore everyone else could hear my private business. At no time did I have a physical examination. My main concern was with sudden deafness, feeling dizzy, nausea and pain. I had a CAT scan, blood test, chest x-ray, and an ECG. At no time did anyone look in my ear or do any neurological tests.”

The woman said she was very alarmed by the condition of the emergency department.

“There were used bandages and plasters discarded on the floor and under the seats were filthy. I saw one doctor lift a sheet off a very unclean trolley and put a child down on it. The bathroom was dirty and wasn’t cleaned throughout the night until 8am the following day despite it being a very busy bathroom. Dirty laundry was left on a bin right next to my face.

“A doctor left my medical notes on top of a bin beside me and walked off. I only realised they were my very personal details when I looked at the piece of paper, not knowing what it was. The doctor did come back 15 minutes later to pick it up but anyone could have seen it.”

The woman said she had to call for a nurse’s attention for a man sitting beside her who had taken a bad reaction to a drip he was given.

“He very nearly fell off his chair and there were older people there with arthritis who were sitting in agony on chairs for hours.”


She said no medication was offered to anyone in the emergency department and said patients were not checked on. She said a language barrier between doctors and patients caused further issues, and food and drinks were not readily available to those waiting long hours to be seen.

“No meals were offered except tea and sandwiches and biscuits via the trolley that came round. What about diabetic people? The food and drink machines in the reception were out of order.”

The woman said she believed capacity issues were compounded by a handover of doctors.

“I was told July is the yearly handing over of the more experienced doctors to a group of new ones. If that’s the case, why don’t they stagger the handover? Some of the doctors literally didn’t know where the light switches were for those patients in rooms let alone where all the equipment is.”

She left hospital on her own accord on Tuesday, 26 hours after arriving at the emergency department.

“I’ll have to wait for a referral which could takes weeks or months and I am already dreading the thought of having to go back there.”

The woman stressed she was not blaming the nurses, whom she described as the “backbone” of the hospital. But she said the hospital is seriously under-resourced.

“The hospital is not functioning properly. Donegal people deserve better. There has got to be a better system than this. I would like to see an effective complaints department.”

The patient is hoping to get in contact with anyone who has had a similar experience. If you have, please email

The Donegal News contacted Saolta for a response. It had not been received at the time of going to press.


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