Campaigner for the elderly on Cork A&E crisis: "It's never been worse"

Campaigner for the elderly on Cork A&E crisis: "It's never been worse"
91-year-old Bartholomew Murphy, from Ballincollig, who spent close to 20 hours on a trolley in CUH.

Long-time campaigner for the elderly, Paddy O’Brien, has said in all of his years advocating for the elderly in Cork, the health service has "never been worse". 

Mr O'Brien says it would go a long way if a specific A&E for elderly patients was opened up in Cork.

His comments come after The Echo published a story on Bernadette Walshe, whose parents were both put on trolleys in a Cork University Hospital A&E corridor while waiting for care.

"I have been working with the elderly for many years and the current situation is appalling. It has never been worse.

"People are sick and they don't want to go to hospital. They are scared to, in case they spend hours or days on trolleys.

"I have seen it myself. I have seen older men and women on trolleys and they are embarrassed. They have no dignity. It's absolutely deplorable."

Mr O'Brien says that political parties have been talking about the health service for years and are claiming it is improving, but he believes it has never been worse.

"Elderly people can't get an appointment with their GP. Then they end up in A&E and they can't get a bed.

"They are embarrassed, they are urinating and they want to go home. There are bags of urine being changed in front of people.

"I was speaking to a woman the other day and she told me her mother was in the hospital and was crying, not from the pain or from her ailment, but because of the embarrassment."

Paddy O'Brien has spoken out against the trolley crisis.
Paddy O'Brien has spoken out against the trolley crisis.

Mr O'Brien also worries about the elderly who have no family or friends to speak up for them. "I worry about people with no family, who are widowed or don't have any children. If they don't make noise or speak up, they are just left there [on a trolley].

"I will be over at CUH [visiting people] and I will see the look on people's faces... 'Paddy, help me'... and I can't do a thing for them."

The Corkman says something has to be done to alleviate the situation. "People will read the newspaper or listen to the radio and think 'isn't this awful'. But it is happening all the time.

"The new government need to change this. More staff is needed. The care and attention they give is excellent but they are run off their feet."

Overall, the care for the elderly in Ireland has deteriorated, according to Mr O'Brien. "There is a shortage of public health nurses. Years ago, after you were discharged from hospital, a public health nurse would visit you for a few days after. Now, this doesn't happen.

"Home help is another issue. There are people in Cork getting 20 minutes of home help per week. There are also waiting lists for home help.

"We need a system like in the UK where they have adequate home help, including overnight stays. This will keep elderly people out of the hospitals.

"We have a situation in Ireland now where it's not about health or quality of life, it's all about money [and the cost of the health service].

"In all my years working with the elderly, I have never experienced anything like this in my life."

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