A pensioner, who spent almost 60 hours in a chair in the emergency department of one of the country’s main hospitals, has called for an independent public inquiry into the trolley crisis.
Pat McCarthy, a 70-year-old from Blarney in Co Cork, was admitted to Cork University Hospital (CUH) on New Year’s Day and spent 57 hours on a chair and another 24 hours on a trolley before she was finally admitted to a ward in the hospital on Wednesday.
“I want an independent public inquiry into this, and I want our three Ministers here in Cork [Tánaiste Micheál Martin, Minister for Enterprise Simon Coveney and Minister for Finance Michael McGrath] to hang their heads in shame,” Ms McCarthy said.
“This isn’t just about me, this is about the people of Cork, the people of my city being treated like this.”
Ms McCarthy told The Irish Times how she was sent to the emergency department (ED) at CUH at 7am on New Year’s Day by her GP with a respiratory issue. After she was triaged by a nurse at the ED, she spent until midday on Tuesday sitting on a chair in a pod in the ED until she was given a trolley.
There’s no privacy, all their personal medical details were known to everyone in the area and that’s not right
“The triage nurse took me, checked me, gave me painkillers and sat me on a chair — my team looked after me with oxygen and with intravenous medications — I sat in a chair for 57 hours with my coat as a pillow and I didn’t sleep a wink in that time,” said Ms McCarthy.
“I saw a woman, a young mother, crying at my feet in pain waiting for medication — she was on the floor with no pillow, no blanket — she was in such pain she had to lie on the floor, and all I heard during the night were her children on the phone to her saying, ‘mummy don’t cry, we love you’.”
Ms McCarthy explained that she and the patients around her were all being accommodated in small hubs or pods set up for Covid which are now being used to cater for the huge influx of patients to CUH’s ED.
Ms McCarthy said she had to use baby wipes to wash herself for the 57 hours she spent on a chair while all around her doctors and nurses were being run off their feet.
“The doctors and nurses are doing their best but the conditions that they are working in are atrocious — the nurses start their shift on the trot — they don’t walk, they are running from patient to patient from the off and they are on the go constantly,” Ms McCarthy said.
“You are designated a nurse and if you are looking for anything, if [you] want to get pain relief you have to go that nurse. So they have to find that nurse, she’s here, she’s there, she’s dealing with ambulance patients.
“I want to know where is Hiqa [Health Information and Quality Authority] in all this. And I want a public inquiry, I want an independent person to go in and shut it down.”
I looked at myself in the mirror this morning and I was shocked — I’m 70, I’m an active 70, I’d build a house for you but I am after coming out of that place, an old woman
According to Ms McCarthy’s husband, Tony, who has been with his wife for much of her ordeal at CUH over the last five days, she was transferred from a chair to a trolley at about midday on Tuesday and spent another 24 hours on a trolley before finally being admitted to a ward.
But Ms McCarthy said the whole experience has taken a huge toll on her — often becoming upset at what she saw happening to other patients around her in the ED. While doctors and nurses do their best, they are fighting an uphill battle, she said.
“But this isn’t about me, I’m only one person — I looked at some of the older women around me in the hub and they could be my mother or my aunt and there’s no privacy, all their personal medical details were known to everyone in the area and that’s not right,” Ms McCarthy said.
“I looked at myself in the mirror this morning and I was shocked — I’m 70, I’m an active 70, I’d build a house for you but I am after coming out of that place, an old woman. I don’t want to get old, I don’t want to get sick — we were all young people once and we had a voice, we have no voice now.”