A WOMAN injured in a serious road crash says she had to wait on a wheelchair for 16 agonising hours in the emergency department at University Hospital Limerick before a doctor was available to see her.
Social Care Manager Julie McKenna told the Limerick Post that she “never felt as vulnerable or afraid” as when she sat among a sea of trolleys in the overcrowded Limerick emergency department after being brought there by ambulance with severe pain in her head, neck and back.
Ms McKenna, 44, from Cappamore, said she did not blame staff as they were “completely overrun, overtired and burned out”. However she said it was her duty to speak out about outrageous conditions in the “not fit for purpose” emergency department.
“It’s absolutely crazy in there. I was brought in by ambulance around 4pm on August 28 from a high-impact car crash. The paramedics were fabulous. They did a really thorough job, but the system in the emergency department was completely overrun,” said Ms McKenna.
“I was put in a wheelchair and brought to Zone A and just literally left there to my own devices. Nobody checked my blood pressure. Nobody checked anything.”
“Around 9pm I looked for pain relief and a doctor was quite abrupt with me and told me that it was because of people like me making requests and demands that I was holding up the process. I was told to look around me and see all the patients that they had in there. I don’t blame them. I understand it was their tiredness, frustration, their burnout.
“The hospital is not fit for purpose, it’s completely understaffed, the staff are at their wits’ end, they are doing an extremely good job in horrendous circumstances.”
“The level of trauma staff are experiencing must be off the charts. It’s unfair to expect anybody to work in those conditions, and it’s unfair to expect somebody who is unwell to present to a facility like that.”
“At 4am on October 29 I had to go and make staff aware that I was there 12 hours, and I was told I would be another 14 hours waiting.
“I said to them that I hadn’t been seen by anybody, I didn’t know if I had a head injury, a neck injury, internal bleeding, because my stomach and my chest was starting to swell because it was badly bruised.”
“The nurses were apologising that they had no doctors available as there was only a couple of doctors on duty and both doctors were in the resuscitation area all evening.”
She described the cramped conditions in the emergency department as a “fire hazard”.
“You could not draw your leg through the trolleys,” she claimed.
“Whatever about the car accident. I never in my life felt so afraid and so vulnerable as I did in that hospital on that night. It is absolutely beyond ridiculous.”
“I am a 44-year old woman. I’m empowered and well able to advocate for myself, but my concern is for elderly and vulnerable patients who are in there on their own and have no one to advocate for them.”
“It’s appalling, like third world conditions. Our hospital is completely overrun and beyond breaking point, and it’s not good enough.”
“If people don’t highlight it and don’t speak out, then we become part of the problem, we become complacent, so I have a duty to the staff and patients to highlight it,” she added.
Ms McKenna said she received pain relief from paramedics at the scene of the crash around 4pm, and again at 9pm and 3am in UHL.
She was finally seen by a doctor at 8.30am, and discharged at 9am, August 29 without being scanned.
On September 4 she went to the Injuries Unit at St John’s Hospital where her right shoulder was x-rayed. She says she is still suffering from “severe bruising, severe swelling and headaches”.
The €24million emergency department at UHL was newly opened in 2017 to replace the old and cramped Accident and Emergency department which could not cope with a surge in attendances after 24-hour accident and emergency units in Clare and North Tipperary were closed and funneled to Limerick in 2009.
UHL has been contacted for a response to Ms McKenna’s patient experience.