On Tuesday, 22nd October I raised the disturbing experience of a 74-year-old patient while in the care of Galway University Hospital last month with the Taoiseach in the Dáil. The facts of the situation as set out in a complaint made to the hospital by a member of the family are shocking and deeply upsetting. A vulnerable woman with a number of ailments, including osteoporosis, was left on a trolley for 72 hours notwithstanding the hospital’s stated policy of not leaving any person on a trolley for more than 24 hours. Furthermore, towards the end of that period of time the patient was found on a corridor, screaming in pain. She was then taken to a bed and left without and x-ray and without pain relief. The family was never contacted at any point in relation to this fall, and never given an adequate explanation as to how the patient ended up being left on the floor screaming in pain.
In fact it took five hours and pressure from the family for an x-ray to eventually be carried out confirming that the patient had suffered a broken hip, a fracture that was more than obvious to the family when they arrived. The patient subsequently died following 9 days in the care of Galway University Hospital. Quite understandably the family is distraught at the manner in which their mother was treated.
I felt that I had no choice but to bring this matter to the Taoiseach’s attention because the hospital at no point proactively contacted the family and or confirmed to them that an investigation was underway. Indeed, it was only as a result of a written complaint by the family on October 10th, fifteen days after their mother had died, that the complaints officer contacted the family. It emerged at that point that an investigation had been undertaken but no details were given as to when it started, who was carrying it out, and when it would be completed.
Unfortunately this is not an isolated case. In fact, as a result of numerous questions to the Minister for Health and to Saolta I have established that there have been 13 independent external reviews of patient care at the hospital in a ten-year period at a cost of €246,883. That is more than one a year, and that figure excludes all of the other reviews into patient care that were not carried out externally.
I have asked for the Minister for Health to make an urgent and comprehensive statement to the Dáil as to what happened to this 74-year woman who suffered so terribly while in the care of the hospital.