I being a dad of six children (3 boys, 3 girls), it was inevitable that the local hospital would be a place that would become familiar to my wife and myself as parents. Speaking as a once child and now adult, I’ve spent much time in the Drogheda Lourdes Hospital too with own illnesses – but that’s another tale for another day.
One of my children, a seven year old, for the last few days had been coughing very badly and throwing up. Needless to say we sought advice/help from professionals but last night (19th/12/2022) after he trying to go to bed, his coughing fits started up so badly along with the throwing up, that he was at times finding it hard to catch his breath. Whatever you might feel about taking chances with your own health at times, as a hopefully good parent, you don’t take chances with your offspring. This mam and dad weren’t. The phoned doctor-on-call advised us to go to A&E.
We decided to call for a taxi to take my son and myself off to Drogheda’s Lourdes Hospital, Accident and Emergency section. Credit to the taxi firm called “Tony’s Cabs” (041 9833303), as soon as we rang, mentioning we had a child that needed to get into hospital quick, a taxi was at our door in under ten minutes. Bravo cab staff – and thanks!
11pm. Once inside the main double doors of the A&E, it was obvious that it was a busy night. The first waiting area was absolutely packed to capacity. This is quite normal for Drogheda on any night. Weekends can and have been far worse. In fact, this about a week ago things were so critical that there was eleven ambulances outside it, waiting to be able to unload their own casualties after the others ahead of them were tried to be triaged and seen to first. News Link – click HERE. I previously only witnessed seven lined up like this. These jam packed situations have become the ‘norm’ at the Lourdes Hospital for a long time. The reasons for this would take another write-up in itself.
Having a seven year old child, we were send to the children waiting room where there, it too was then packed to capacity. The time was 11pm. Children of all ages were present in the full area. From two month year old’s to teenagers. A majority were between the ages of five to twelve. Many looked pale, sick, tired and uncomfortable.
I being a person involved in politics to some degree and having reported on previous Lourdes Hospital issues (having spent previous nights there observing, besides also taking others to it), I professionally kept my eyes and ears open while I saw to it that my own child was eventually treated. I did of course, put my own child first in every way, before observing and noting all other things.
During a long night of waiting I spoke briefly to one Polish family that were present. There was the dad, mum, a young son (6+) and a daughter around the same age. They informed my that they had been in the waiting room since 1.3opm that day. honestly, I was shocked at this. The Polish mum spoke across waiting filled seats to another woman in the room. From their conversation that all heard, the second mum speaking, let it be known that she had been there with her child since 2.30pm that day (remember, this is just after 11pm at night). Again, I was shocked to hear this but said nothing. My heart sank at the thoughts of my child having to see out such possible waiting times. I knew in my heart we were in for a long night.
The first thing to note was that the hospital remained way under-staffed. From orderlies (I didn’t see one all night) to nurses that there was very few around, to higher qualified doctors that were very little present, it was obvious that all were trying to to their very best in a crazy MASH style situation of triage assessment and organised chaos. They were (and have been for a long time) under-staffed and to be honest, often way under-appreciated by others. If you ever watch an episode of “ER” (a past USA TV series), in it there are always nurses, doctors and specialists milling around all the time. The Lourdes A&E was not an episode of “ER” and they certainly didn’t have the staff to compete with fiction. What we had like like too many other state hospitals, was long under-resourced, long over-stretched reality!
The next thing to note, was the state of the place. My god, was the waiting rooms in some state! Now to be 100% fair, the place was packed and I suspect had been that way all day – so anyone at all trying to keep the place spotless clean all the time, would in effort be like trying to hold back a sea tide. There was plastic bottles, papers and other rubbish strewn about the place. Parents dared not pick anything up – perhaps out of fear of any contaminants that they might gain, and then possible pass to their offspring. In the many hours my son and myself were there, not one person stuck their head in to see if indeed, the place needed attending to. It very clearly did. It was also certainly not the job of other nurses, etc, to do such work. They were up to their own eyes in trying to cope with people/children numbers. Did I mention they are a credit to their profession? They really are!
At one point in the night while we were waiting, my son managed to weakly say to me that he was thirsty. Looking around, there was no water facilities. I had to ask someone to keep an eye on him while I sought a water cooler. I eventually found one in another waiting area. It was half full. “Great” I though to myself. …Then only to discover there was not a plastic cup in the place to avail of the present water. I went back to by son who was broken-hearted at dad not been able to get him a water drink.
Thinking about the situation, I resolved myself to then ask the first available nurse that might pop out from behind any door. One appeared about 20 minutes later. Interrupting her while she looked for someone who’s name she had just called out, I asked her “Is there a chance I could get a cup of water for my son? There’s no cups anywhere around here!” Credit to her, she immediately went and disappeared. A few minutes later my son was with a plastic cup filled with water. This dad was and remains, eternally grateful. Thank you nurse.
It was very clear that some parents, more so than others, were used to the long delays of Irish hospitals. The Polish parents came with food, minerals, toys and a phone for end the kids to watch cartoons on. Others there brought similar items while others who didn’t looked on, perhaps jealously. It was clear there was lessons to be learned. Portable phonebank chargers are now an “also must have” ready to go for waiting rooms. The next time I go, I most certainly will be bringing something to even drink from, be it an empty mug or water bottle.
Eventually my son and I were seen by a nurse who triaged the situation and thus, assessed where two put us within the waiting list of people. Rightly so, the more critical one goes first to eventually see a doctor, if they were available and on site. Sometimes they are not and people/children have to stay waiting till the next morning day for greater assessment. For many it was a long night on very uncomfortable stiff, hard chairs.
After my son was quickly triaged assessed, we were sent back to the waiting room again. then like others, there was an extremely long wait. long waits have become the normal and not just in the Lourdes Hospital. Across Ireland similar situations exist on a daily basis. Last Thursday it was reported to me, a room message was put up saying the waiting time to be further seen, was seventeen hours in length. Hospital staff have apparently been on local radio tear filled about having to send people and kids back to their cars in the hospital carpark, as waiting rooms were so packed and there was no space within. This is a one crazy situation with no solution in sight after 11 years of Fine Gael in top health charge.
These waiting times are a serious problem. The staff in the building were always doing their very best to try speed things up. With a further lack of other staff and especially the non-existence of doctors or specialists available, waiting times can turn out to be additionally problem creating. Two examples:
(a) A number of months back I accompanied a person to Drogheda A&E who has having serious mental issues. They could not be left alone at any stage so I too them to the hospital and accompanied them throughout the night. They were very depressed and borderline suicidal. As they were older, they had to be seated in the adult waiting section. One hour of waiting at night became two – then two became six. By the seventh hour, the person I was with was growing more stressed and now angry at having to sit, trapped within ‘ever enclosing walls’ as they felt they were. They were growing more frustrated and you could see it on their face their suicidal tendencies were now added to by irritation and further building resentment. Eventually they snapped. They upped and left – walked out. They couldn’t take the waiting any more.
I have to say again that in NO WAY was it the fault of the staff that were present. The great staff were simply overwhelmed on that night, another normal night I suspect. Long story short, I managed to persuade the person to return the next day with me. A number of hours later, they were further mentally assessed.
(b) Throughout the night while present, staff would appear from behind a door where medical bed were in their cubicles. Stepping out, they would call names of people or children. Sometimes the people they called were no longer present. They had left. We can only assume that they must have got tired of all the waiting. Speaking to some of the other adults present, they said this was a regular thing. Some people couldn’t cope with the half day, occasionally near full time day waits. I had to ask myself “Have things really got this bad?” Then again, I should have definite more known from experience – but I genuinely didn’t think things had got this bad, so regularly!
Hours later, have been seen and leaving the building, I called for a taxi to take us home. In talking about why my son and I were at the hospital, the driver stated that he had a similar experience the week previous on a Thursday day, into Friday night. His daughter had fallen badly in Blanchardstown shopping centre, Dublin. They had rung for an ambulance there. They were told that the wait time would be a minimum three and a half hours to get to them. After being left lying on the ground for up to an hour and a half, dad made use of a relatives and a car, then proceeded to lift his daughter into it. From a potential spine injury aspect alone, this could always be very potentially dangerous – but dad said he felt they had no choice. When they got to the Drogheda hospital then his daughter had to wait a full day within, before being seen, multiple scans done and then allowed to told that it was safe to leave – with precaution warnings, treatment care information and other advice given.
Finally getting home, both father, son and mother (who was awake, waiting anxiously at home) were exhausted. We went to bed in the early hours of the morning and slept longer into the following morning. Work and everything else would have to wait. It had been a very long day and night before. It is not something we would wish on anyone.
Irish Mail Dec’ 2oth, 2022.
FINAL NOTE: It should be noted that even before the serious Covid lockdown period imposed, the Drogheda Lourdes Hospital was often in the top ranks of a national waiting list for people looking for a bed. All of our national hospitals and local ones, are in the same situation to good extent. It’s been this way for over eleven years and so far under the usual parties of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, decades on, they are not only yearly failing to address the situations but are by stupidity, personal party agenda antics and unaccountable incompetency, making matters much worse.
The Fianna Fail and Fine Gael plans to reduce services in Navan and possible transfer them to Drogheda at the present time, would be sheer nuts. They had planned to do this already but such has been the uproar from Navan and from Drogheda, it’s been postponed. However, the plans are still existing. There still is an aim to reduce services. The Lourdes Hospital is way too under staffed already, to be able to cope with any such plans.
Before it can ever dream of taking on more population numbers, it must resolve the long occurring situation of overworked staff, non-existent staff numbers that are clearly more needed, faster speed up waiting times, among other problems – including Ambulance issues and more. ONLY THEN when such things are resolved, can any next stages be looked at correctly and implemented. The proposed plans for Navan are simply nuts. Navan needs more support for it’s own area. It needs greater help. Not ‘rugs’ (services) pulled from underneath it!
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