No privacy for dying in Newcastle West hospital

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St Ita's Hospital, Newcastle West

INSPECTORS at a County Limerick hospital found that patients were left to die in busy public rooms with only a curtain for privacy.

The inspection was carried out at St Ita’s Community Hospital in Newcastle West by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) last July.

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The inspector’s report, which was published in recent weeks, found that the hospital was “majorly non-compliant’ in three areas.

The report stated that “due to the number of residents accommodated in many of the bedrooms, it was not possible for staff to provide adequate privacy to the resident as they approached end of life.

“This also had an impact on the privacy of other residents in the room. Relatives were unable to spend time alone with their family member or friend when they were seriously ill and approaching end of life.”

“Some residents lived out their final days being cared for in a five-bedded room, with the curtains closed around the bed.”

However, the inspectors found that staff generally provided care to residents in “a caring and respectful manner.”

But they took issue with there not being enough choice for those on modified diets and the fact that in some cases staff mashed vegetables, potatoes and meat together and presented residents with “an unrecognisable mix of food.”

The report also highlighted the fact that staff were not available to help residents who needed assistance to eat until around ten minutes after the food was served.

Inspectors also determined that St Ita’s had “failed to ensure that residents had access to meaningful activities on a daily basis.

“A large number of residents spent long periods of time in their bedrooms, either in bed or in a chair at their bedside. Residents in sitting rooms were provided with little stimulation, other than the television, in which they had little interest.”

Responding to the HIQA concerns, hospital management stated that “a newly refurbished area in Camellia Unit has been identified to provide a suitable private area for residents at end of life.

“This enables the visitors to spend time alone with their relative at end of life,” and “a newly refurbished room is available for visitors and overnight accommodation is available for visitors should they wish to stay.”

An agenda to tackle other issues has also been drawn up between the hospital and HIQA.