Pregnant woman examined in ‘storeroom’ at hospital

Risks of ‘five day service’ highlighted by local TD

A pregnant woman who miscarried could not be scanned over the weekend because there were “no sonographers” available; while another presenting with a bleed was examined in what was described as a “storeroom”.

The shocking accounts were detailed in the Dáil earlier this month by Sinn Féin TD, Pauline Tully, when pushing for additional expenditure at Cavan General for new developments, excluding funding carried over or otherwise used to maintain existing levels of service in 2024.

With Minister Stephen Donnelly boasting that staffing levels at the local hospital have increased nearly one quarter (259 extra staff) since 2020 and with plans to build a new three-storey extension currently at “detailed design stage”, Deputy Tully still maintains there are “insufficient numbers” of front-line staff.

“Morale in the hospital is quite low. I have talked to staff who feel they are under pressure and that it can be dangerous for themselves and patients when there are insufficient numbers of nurses on wards, for example. Constituents have also contacted me about cancelled or delayed appointments,” she said before highlighting the case of a woman who presented with a threatened miscarriage on a Friday, at just over three months pregnant, who was not scanned until the following Monday.

“It was Monday before she could be scanned to establish whether she was having a miscarriage because no sonographers were there to operate the machines over the weekend. She was not the only one,” claimed Deputy Tully in the Dáil.

“The woman concerned ended up having a miscarriage. Another lady went to the hospital with a bleed but it ended up that her baby was safe. However, it is terrible to have to wait a whole weekend to establish that. That is not okay. The woman made the point to me that, if men were having babies, that probably would not happen. She felt she did not get the care she deserved. She was even examined in a room that was not a ward. It was not even private; it was a storeroom.”

Deputy Tully further highlighted how a therapist recently told the local TD that her caseload for one day was 30 people.

“That is not sustainable. In the end, because there were only two therapists doing the job and they were each facing heavy caseloads, she ended up quite ill herself and had to take time off because she was so worn down.”

Deputy Tully accepts that, like all hospitals, CGH is currently facing issues because of high flu and Covid numbers.

Repeated advisories have issued urging people to avoid presenting at the Emergency Department and Deputy Tully said she was “concerned” about that.

While hospital management are “very proactive and are trying at all times to alleviate pressures” there still existed cases of people waiting a long six months “for a hernia or something. When I talk to them further, it turns out the appointment is only an initial one to see the consultant. It does not take into account the time they will have to wait on a waiting list for an operation. That is too long. Some of them will end up using the cross-border directive but they should not have to do that.”

Responding, Minister Donnelly said that the government will continue to invest at Cavan General and “continue growing services and the workforce”.

He said he wanted to see progress on current investments in the pipeline because it would “make a big difference to patient care” in the area as the hospital moves from an “all-year-round approach” to urgent and emergency care and away from the “annual cycle” of winter plans.

“We are, by no means, where we want to end up but, thanks to important work, things are getting better,” he assured.

To Deputy Tully’s account regarding the two pregnant women, the minister said he was “not familiar” with the cases but agreed “it does not sound right”.

“We are in the middle of a very fundamental shift in healthcare provision in respect of exactly the situation that woman found herself in. We are moving from a five-day week service to a seven-day week hospital service. Of course, hospitals are open at the weekends but, exactly to the Deputy’s point, all the services are not always available at weekends.”

The new consultant contract he stated is “part of that”, as is the planned hiring of 25,000 more staff.

“It takes time. It is a huge shift from five days to seven days but it is essential for all the reasons that lady the Deputy described seems to have experienced. Certainly, the Deputy should rest assured we will continue investing in Cavan Hospital, continue growing services and the workforce, and seek to move to, and achieve, seven days a week so that patients can get the services they need. As she said, people need that kind of care seven days a week and not just five.”

The RCSI has been contacted by the Celt for comment.