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`Like a scene from a war movie'

Local family describe A&E ordeal in the Royal as staff struggle to cope

Royal Victoria Hospital

The Royal Victoria Hospital - staff in A&E were 'pushed to breaking point'


A LOCAL man has spoken of his 81-year-old mother's ordeal after she spent the night at the Royal Victoria Hospital waiting to be seen, amid scenes he described as being like "a war movie".

Jim Fleming, whose mother Ida suffers from dementia and resides at Drumlough House in Lisburn, took ill last Saturday night. An ambulance was called to transfer Mrs. Fleming to Belfast, as the Lagan Valley was already closed.

Mrs. Fleming, who is well-known in the Dunmurry area, with the local business woman having previously owned Fleming's Footwear and Klassy Kidz, was admitted to the Royal at 11.15pm but was not seen until 6.30am, when she was released as she not been ill again during the night.

However, it was 10am before an ambulance could be arranged to return Mrs. Fleming to Drumlough House, following a night her son said was "traumatic."

Mrs Fleming's son Jim and her daughter Jackie spent the night at the Royal with their mother and speaking to the Star Jim described the chaotic scene they faced.

He said: "My mother is in the final stages of dementia. When she was taken ill the home rang for an ambulance. It arrived promptly, and because the Lagan Valley Hospital was closed, it took mum to the Royal Victoria Hospital. We arrived at 11-15pm, and I finished the booking in process at 11.30pm while the ambulance crew brought my mum in.

"Surprise number one was how busy and hectic the hospital was. It was like a scene from a war movie, with patients lined up on trolleys extending out into the corridor. The ambulance crew informed me that the place was so busy it would be around two hours before my mum was 'handed over' to the RVH, and an expected eight hours before she would be seen.

"The timing was more or less correct, as it was around tam before the crew were able to transfer my mother and finally leave."

Jim said the hold up for the ambulance crew meant that other emergencies were unable to be dealt with.

He explained: "During that time, the ambulance crew were joined by up to eight other crews, who
because the hospital was so busy, were held there for hours. During this time they were unavailable for other emergency calls. Is this the type of false saving that (Health minister) Mr Poots expects to make by closing the LVH? Hardly a formula for success.

"We spent the night at the RVH, and my mum was finally seen at around 6.30am. As she hadn't been sick during this time, it was decided to release her. Another ambulance was called and three hours later it arrived to take her back to Drumlough House.

"It was the first time that I have been at the RVH all night. Up until this point I must admit that I had some sympathy with what I had previously seen as the overmanned and perhaps less than fully efficient health service. I had thought perhaps that Mr Poots was trying to strengthen his negotiating position with the unions by causing them hassle if they didn't make changes at the LVH. Saturday night changed that.

"I can honestly state that during the whole night the staff were pushed to breaking point, and worked solid without breaks under enormous pressure.

"People like my mum were left lying on trolleys as the staff simply couldn't get to them quickly enough. This cannot continue, and will get worse when the City Hospital closes its A&E.

"Could I ask Mr Poots to spend a night at the A&E at the RVH and then honestly tell us that this is an acceptable service for Lisburn? Please Mr Poots, take some action now to allow the LVH to re-open its A&E department. Would you like to wait for hours on end if you were taken ill? Would you like your relatives to wait hours in a draughty corridor? I don't think you would accept that."

Ulster Star