A PUBLIC ambulance was not available to transport a 60-year-old severely disabled patient back to his nursing home, despite spending almost 10 hours on a trolley in the emergency department at University Hospital Limerick, it has been claimed.
The HSE has been requested to implement a new treatment protocol for people with severe disabilities in the emergency department, after Margaret Morgan, from Ennis, witnessed what she calls “a very distressing episode” concerning her brother.
Ms Morgan has decided to speak publicly about the incident involving her brother, who has Friedreich’s ataxia (FA), to ensure the HSE introduces measures to prevent a repeat of what happened to him. A long-term carer for her bother until he was admitted to residential care, she explained FA is a neuromuscular disease that mainly affects the nervous system and the heart. Neurological symptoms include muscle weakness and ataxia, a loss of balance and co-ordination.
Having been furnished with details of Ms Morgan’s complaints, the HSE had not responded to Clare Champion queries at the time of going to press.
Ms Morgan’s brother was taken by ambulance from a nursing home in Limerick and arrived in the emergency department (ED) at about 2.30pm on Monday, March 10.
Ms Morgan said when she arrived to see her brother at 6pm, the scene at the ED was “chaotic” and “under-staffed”.
“He had a kidney infection and actually cried with pain because he was so uncomfortable and no one came near him for a long period. He is totally disabled. He shouldn’t be sitting down or lying down for long periods. The emergency department was very busy and full up with trolleys. I didn’t see a whole lot of staff in the unit.
“There was no way he could have stayed on that trolley overnight in the ED. We were told he was first on the list for transfer at 8am on Tuesday morning. He was going to be left overnight on a trolley, there was no bed for him, which was out of the question,” she said.
Her son, Sean, said he spent almost two and a half hours contacting over 20 taxi operators in Ennis, Sixmilebridge, Shannon and Limerick and also issued an appeal on social media to try and hire a suitable vehicle.
Eventually, he got the loan of a private wheelchair-accessible vehicle, which arrived at the ED in Limerick at 1.30am and transported him to his nursing home, much to the relief of all the family.
Sean has since contacted a number of local organisations to try and secure a wheelchair-accessible vehicle that could be made available in the event of a similar emergency in the future and is willing to volunteer to drive with his licenc,e subject to garda vetting and any other procedures.
“I am lucky, I have good contacts and know people who might be able to help me out. What about the person living in a rural part of Clare who might need a wheelchair accessible vehicle in an emergency?
“A protocol needs to be put in place for the treatment of people with disabilities in emergency departments and when an ambulance isn’t available,” he said.
Ms Morgan said she was told there were no ambulances available to take her brother back to the nursing home in Limerick at 10.10pm, as emergencies were only catered for late at night. She queried the lack of public emergency transport to take a person with a serious disability back to a residential facility.
“The whole thing was unbelievable. It is unreal in the ED. It is atrocious. All the trollys were pushed together. There is no privacy, all the female and male patients are there together. There were elderly patients on trolleys.
“I haven’t slept right since. The whole incident was very distressing. Where were the staff to look after the patients.
“There was only a small number of staff on duty, possibly two, with three or four assistants,” she claimed.