Donegal mother tells of A&E chaos at Letterkenny University Hospital

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An Inishowen woman has told of the ‘chaos’ she experienced at Letterkenny University Hospital A&E this week, which included a 15 hour wait, people sitting on the ground and one family who left to go to Altnagelvin Hospital.

Emma Govha, who is well-known to many through her social media page ‘The Wee Donegal Mammy’, where she discusses topics such as family carers, disability services, special education and healthcare, attended A&E on Tuesday with her teenage son.

They arrived at 11am and didn’t leave until 2am the next morning.

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Emma stressed how this was ‘no fault of the staff at all’, who were ‘rushed off their feet’ and are ‘doing amazing work in extremely difficult circumstances’.

Emma Govha (left) and Letterkenny University Hospital A&E.Emma Govha (left) and Letterkenny University Hospital A&E.
Emma Govha (left) and Letterkenny University Hospital A&E.

She urged Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to come back to Donegal again and see for himself the situation at LUH A&E.

"A&E was absolutely packed. All the trollies were full, resus was full, one chair after another was packed up and there were people sitting on the ground. The nurses were going steady on their feet, as were the doctors. It was just chaos.

“I met a woman and they were discharging a family member to go to Altnagelvin in Derry as they couldn’t wait any longer. I met a man who had been on a trolley for over 25 hours.”

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Emma had to return to A&E on Wednesday evening for a friend and said it was ‘even worse’. While there, she met a man she had seen in A&E with the previous day. The man, who has a tumour in his head and consented to Emma sharing his experience, had a brain injury. He arrived at 11am on Tuesday and at 9pm was told he needed to be admitted but there wasn’t an available bed. The man asked if he could leave and return the next morning. He returned to the hospital at 9am on Wednesday and was still waiting for the bed when Emma met him at 3.30pm, she said.

The INMO said that yesterday, 16 people were waiting for beds at LUH. Emma said this figure did not reflect those waiting in A&E for test results etc or confirmation of admission and it did not reflect what people are experiencing.

“When you go to A&E, you know you’re going to be there for hours and lots of people have this idea that people are going there for nothing. Yes, we do need to look at primary care and need further investment in that to alleviate the pressures on A&E, but LUH is a Model 3 hospital – one of the biggest and it is consistently underfunded.”

On Wednesday, it was announced that 72 new acute beds are being put in place for LUH , as part of the Acute Inpatient Hospital Bed Expansion Plan which aims to deliver 4,367 acute hospital in-patients’ beds across the county by 2031.

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Emma questioned if the hospital would also be allocated extra staff to allow for the extra beds.

Emma, a full time carer, posted about her experience in A&E on her Facebook page and it was shared hundreds of times, while others shared their own experiences.

She said she posted on Facebook as she is ‘so frustrated with the system,’ particularly in relation to her own children, one of whom has been waiting six years for a consultant appointment and will soon ‘age out’ of the waiting list.

She is continuously contacted by other parents and carers, who are equally as frustrated and upset with the health system.

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In response to a question from the Journal, the Saolta Hospital Group said: “LUH has experienced significant pressures on our Unscheduled Care services throughout 2023 and to date in 2024 with a continued increase in demands on the Emergency Department resulting in longer Patient Experience Times and Ambulance Turnaround Times. Up to the end of April this year 13,001 patients attended the Emergency Department, an increase of 7.5% on the same period last year.

“However, despite the increase in attendances, significant process improvements have and continue to be implemented in the Emergency Department and across the hospital to improve patient flow.

“Between January and April of this year LUH has seen a 22% decrease in the number of patients waiting on trolleys compared to the same period last year.

“LUH are continuing to implement system improvements and will continue to focus on reducing waiting times for patients attending our Emergency Department.

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“Hospital and Community teams work closely to enable patients move as quickly as possible through the hospital system. There are a series of actions in place aimed at avoiding ED admission, including the experience of patients while in ED, the efficiency of movement within the hospitals and timely discharge to community services and other care supports.

“The Acute Medical Assessment Unit was reinstated in January 2024 to enhance patient flow and the hospital introduced a Paediatric pathway in September 2023 for children attending the Emergency Department, which has improved access for children requiring acute Emergency Care.

“Four new permanent Consultants in Emergency Medicine have been appointed since December 2022 as part of the Minister of Health’s allocation of 4 additional consultants to LUH increasing our approval to 8 WTE Consultants in Emergency Medicine. All Consultants are currently in post.

“All patients who present to our emergency departments will be seen and treated, with the sickest and most urgent patients being prioritised. We urge any patient requiring emergency hospital treatment not to delay and come to the ED, or dial 999 or 112 in an emergency. We also request people to only use these services when it is urgent.

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“We acknowledge that patients presenting with non-urgent injuries may face longer waiting times, depending on the number of patients attending and the severity of patient illnesses. Our staff work hard to do all they can to reduce the length of time patients wait in EDs and we apologise when patients experience long delays.”

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