Waiting figures back up patient complaints

Published: 9 Aug 2012 13:000 comments

There is no doubt -- the new South West Acute Hospital is a fantastic looking building.

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The superlatives that were used on its opening 50 days ago such as state-of-the-art and most modern in Western Europe are undoubtedly true.

But there have been teething troubles. So much so that a local MLA has asked for an urgent review citing patients suffering "significant distress".

Already there have been issues with car parking. Open for only seven weeks, the Trust is already having to re-model car parking at the hospital to provide 90 spaces to come into effect by September and is to construct a further 150 new spaces on the site.

The relocation of the remaining community based staff from community facilities to the new hospital site is being deferred until the car park spaces are constructed.

This week patients have spoken out about waiting for their treatment and one even referred to "ghost hospital" where staff are working under stressful conditions.

Statistics would seem to back up patient claims about waiting as there appears to be a drop in performance when comparing the waiting figures at the Erne Hospital to those at the new South West Acute Hospital.

Last year, the Erne Hospital achieved one of the best performances in Northern Ireland for patient waiting times at its Emergency Care department. Department of Health figures showed that in October and December 2011, the Erne Hospital exceeded the government target that 95 per cent of patients are either treated and discharged or admitted within four hours of their arrival in the department. In October it was 95.9 per cent and in December 95.5 per cent. It just missed the target with 94.3 per cent of patients being dealt with in four hours in month of November.

The figure for the entire financial year from March 2011 to April 2012 at the Erne was 94.3 per cent, just shy of the government target.

Yesterday the Western Trust revealed that the performance for July -- at the South West Acute Hospital -- was 91 per cent of patients waiting no longer than four hours from the time of arrival to treatment, admission or discharge. The excellent percentages have slipped a little.

In all the case studies highlighted in this newspaper today, patients say staff were helpful and accommodating. However, one patient cites "stressful and difficult conditions" staff are working under. The story emerging is that front-line staff are coming under pressure. Staff say they are skipping breaks to get their work done and one nurse is said to have walked 15 miles in one shift.

Of course there will be issues when a major health facility moves from one location to another. But they cannot go on forever. The Trust must take a firm grasp of the issues and ensure that staff are properly supported in this period of change.

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