Those living in Sligo and the Northwest who were pinning their hopes on being able to have their healthcare needs, not available locally, met in the short-term closer to home by sauntering across the border have had a rude awakening following the initial experiences at the new hospital in Enniskillen.
While there was always some doubt about the level of enthusiasm for facilitating such cross border interactions on the part of the current Unionist leadership in Belfast it appears that factors we are far more familiar with here have intervened and which may long finger any such plans to travel to the new hospital from this side of the border---bad planning, lack of staff and mis-management.
Following the opening a month ago it was discovered that there is insufficient car-parking spaces for staff and an arrangement whereby staff would park elsewhere and then be bussed on to work is now being considered. This is an alarming development as the hospital will not be running to full capacity until 2018 so clearly this problem can only get worse as the facility gets busier.
The situation is bad enough at present to have prevented some departments from moving in at all. Social Services staff have not been able to make the transfer from their existing offices to the new hospital. To add to this hiccup there is also flooding problems reported at the site.
But other more serious concerns have arisen.
Patients are reporting extensive delays at the hospital’s A&E Department with one woman having to wait 8 hours to be treated.
The relative of a patient who underwent surgery at the new hospital put pen to paper and wrote to the Impartial Reporter
about the experience. She wrote,
“My friend's husband had an appendectomy, a routine but serious operation, on 1st Aug in the new hospital. After the operation, he was in severe pain which continued all day. His wife was naturally concerned and spent considerable effort over the day trying to get a doctor to check him out. He wasn't however seen by a doctor until 28 hours after surgery. My friend described the hospital as feeling like a 'ghost' hospital - devoid of doctors and few nurses to be found”.
She went on to tell a tale that many in Sligo will be very familiar with,
“Over yesterday and today, my friend spoke to three different nurses, all of whom appeared to be worked to the bone and didn't seem have the time to get (her husband) up on his feet and mobile - a crucial part of the recovery process. These nurses were all clearly very unhappy and what all three reiterated was along the lines: "We have a state of the art hospital but not enough staff to run it." One actually said "We're on our knees"!”
While commending the development saying it is “very comfortable and aesthetically pleasing”, she closed with questions that are often asked here too, “But what's the point if there aren't enough staff to care for the patients? Surely patient care should be the first priority?”
That certainly has a familiar ring to it; those that rule over us from the East coast might not take our healthcare needs as seriously as they ought.
Hopefully these events are merely teething problems that will soon be overcome and the hospital will develop into a very much needed addition to healthcare provision for the people of the Northwest.