The Story BeginsBefore we begin, please let me apologise. Although I’ve never had any intention of suing anyone over what you’re about to read, rest assured that they would have no hesitation in suing me if I were to identify them. And since the aim of this website is to solicit knowledge and help rather than to apportion blame to hospitals or doctors, this means that some names and facts have had to be omitted.
On 18 May, 2009, my mother died in the palliative care ward of a Dublin hospital (Hospital A). She was initially admitted to a general hospital (Hospital B) where the “flu” she’d been diagnosed with by her own doctor was finally recognized as stage 4 lymphoma.
When it became clear she had only two months to live, Hospital B wanted their bed back and the Palliative Care Sister told us they wanted to transfer her to Hospital A.
I was against it because this hospital had attracted public criticism. But the team put my family under such pressure that we had to vote on it. I lost.
Like all public hospitals in Ireland, Hospital A is run by the Health Services Executive (HSE).
It’s important for me to emphasise that although the hospital was old, run-down, and decrepit inside, the wards and public areas seemed to be kept clean and the staff were kind and caring.
At the rear of the building, you may see some animals you wouldn’t expect to find in hospital grounds. There are also many feral cats which are apparently fed and cared for by staff and/or patients. It’s good for patient morale, I was told.
A few weeks after her death, my mother’s clothes were returned in a hospital bag. After a couple of days, I began to notice bites on my body, but because I was so devastated by the distressing nature of her death (stage 4 lymphoma coupled with unexplained delirium – diagnosed initially as ‘flu), it didn’t occur to me to do anything about it.
When my sister came to sort out my mother’s things, we found three neatly folded blankets at the bottom of the bag, two of which were hospital-issue cellular blankets and the third a fleece blanket. My sister, who’s a nurse, said this would most likely have accompanied a private or nursing home admission to Hospital A.
Unfortunately, she shook them all out to see what they were while I was standing in the way. Clouds of dust and debris filled the room and settled on my face, hair, and clothing. The two cellular blankets were filthy, caked with dried mud, animal droppings and hairs, and bloodstains, as though they’d been repeatedly used as animal bedding. That night, I forgot to take a shower.
Some days later, I found a reddish-brown insect which I identified from the web as a bedbug.
I reported all this to the social workers at Hospital B. They obviously informed management at Hospital A because I subsequently received a telephone call from the ward sister at Hospital A apologising for the “extra items that were put in your mother’s bag.”
The HSE Pest Control Unit informed me they only treat Irish hospitals for rodent pests, not insects.
Failure to comply
Here’s an excerpt from the Health Information & Quality Authority Social Services Inspectorate report on an announced inspection carried out at Hospital A almost a year after my mother’s death:
The provider has failed to comply with a regulatory requirement in the following respect:
- There was evidence of general disrepair with paint and plaster flaked off walls and linoleum flooring cracked and broken in places, for example, at the entrance to (a named) ward.
- The floor of the laundry was pitted and in a general state of disrepair.
- The roof in the laundry storage area leaked and the ventilation grills had been blocked off.
- The waste reception area is an open yard and clinical waste was seen in an open dumpster which was susceptible to rodent and pest ingress.
- Compacted used continence pads were left open to the air in the waste reception area.
- Sluice rooms contained not only sluice facilities, but also organic waste, cleaning equipment and assistive equipment such as walking frames which increased the risk of cross infection – there was also no wash hand basin.
Read on to continue the story...