Beaten up and can’t see a doctor? – Where are we going wrong?

I’ve just discovered that a friend was beaten up in Derry between 1am and 1.30am on Sunday morning. Standing, minding his own business he was attacked by 5 thugs who just happened to be passing by. A random assault by mindless morons.

altnagelvin.jpgDid he challenge them in anyway? Did he cause them to attack him? No. He was just phoning a taxi when he was set upon by this bunch of thugs. Just one of those things that happen in Derry and every other town in Northern Ireland on a typical Sunday night.

But there is more… the weak of stomach ought to turn away here… he tried to get away but was pursued and beaten to the ground by the thugs. His life was probably saved by a taxi driver who phoned the PSNI. The thugs did a runner and when the PSNI found the lad unconscious they brought him to Altnagelvin Hospital at around 1.45am.

But there is more… the weak of spirit ought to turn away RIGHT now for I don’t want to be responsible for making you MORE depressed about life in NI.

At 06.45am he still had not seen a doctor. Apparently there was only ONE doctor on duty and this lad was not a priority. Now… I don’t blame the casualty doctors. They do an absolutely magnificent job .. but I do blame the hospital administrators who organise the work rotas. Why do I blame them? Well, after 5 hours my friend decided that he really couldn’t stay there any longer so he phoned a taxi and went home. He was lucky enough to be able to do that – well…. in his opinion he was well enough to go home. BUT…… was he in any condition to make such a decision? He could have had a serious head injury or internal bleeding from the kicking he’d received. His leaving the hospital was a typical act of youthful bravado. Where was the MEDICAL opinion that said he was fit to go home?

It was not available.

Where was the chain of care of this individual who had been found unconscious in the street by police who had been called by witnesses? It is not evident…..

The following afternoon his mother, alarmed at his condition, phoned Altnagelvin to see if there was anyway he could be seen by a doctor. She was told that there were 5 doctors on call and 5 patients in casualty waiting. Is Monday afternoon a typically busy time for casualty? Why are there more doctors on at this time than on a Sunday night when the pubs are getting out?

The lad is now hobbling around on crutches and will be off work for at least two weeks. So.. his injuries were serious enough to warrant treatment. A judgment that ought to have been reached on Sunday night when he was taken to the hospital and a judgment that would have been made had he been able to see a doctor.

My problem here is this:-

1) Why was the lad in the Altnagelvin A&E for 5 hours without receiving any treatment or even seeing a doctor?

2) Why are we NOT safe to walk to a local chippie on a Sunday night? Have the PSNI no sense? Can they not pick out the assault hotspots? Crikey O’Reilly… it can’t be that hard! The PSNI have been operating in Derry for years! How hard is it to figure that local taxi stands, fast food outlets and main streets are the possible places where there is a high probability of assault when the pubs close?

3) Why was the lad left unattended by the PSNI – I don’t mean when they rescued him (great job!) – I mean why was he not “handed over” to other responsible carers who could look after his injuries? Perhaps the officers thought that getting the lad to the hospital was the end of their responsibility. But is it? What if he’d suffered a massive internal bleed when he left the hospital? There would surely be a legal challenge as to who was responsible. Wouldn’t there? Who had the duty of care here and DID NOT exercise it?

4) Why are there SO few doctors on duty on Sunday night/Monday Morning at Altnagelvin? Good grief .. even the reports appearing in the local press over the last month might reveal to the pen pushers that more staff are needed!

Now… I’m not a knocker by nature. I admire the job that the emergency services do under very difficult conditions. But, after this incident, I am very concerned for the safety of myself, my children and my friends who have to make their way home after a night out. At this point in time I fear the thugs have taken over and rule our Northern Ireland streets…. unless you can tell me any different?

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4 Responses to Beaten up and can’t see a doctor? – Where are we going wrong?

  1. CyberScribe says:

    I wonder what your local political representatives would say.

  2. ash says:

    It’s a disgrace that someone was left unattended in the hospital for so long. I agree that the emergency services do a fantastic job under a lot of pressure but I think there’s a lack of common sense sometimes in the very basic organizational side of things. Surely common sense would tell them a weekend night would be more busy than Monday afternoon? Is a realistic rota too much to expect? Should we all be taught at school how to repair broken legs & check for internal bleeding as we can’t rely on treatment from our medical professionals??

  3. talkni says:

    So, I asked Altnagelvin Hospital for a response to this story… silence.
    I asked the PSNI for a response to this story… silence.
    Hardly surprising, I hear you say, since both were so thoroughly in the wrong!

    Now along comes this story on the BBC, ‘They just diagnosed a broken arm’, telling the harrowing tale of Graeme McGinn, a 16 year old boy from Eastleaze in Swindon, who fell off his motor bike in May 2004 and sustained a broken arm. At least that is what the hospital told his dad when they rang him at 1am to say his son was in the emergency department.

    Tony, Graeme’s father, takes up the story and says that soon after he arrived at the hospital:- “”He seemed to be getting aggressive. His language was more colourful. And he started complaining of a pain in his chest. He said someone was sitting on his chest.”

    Hospital staff decided at this stage that a chest X-ray would be in order, but someone had to hold him down as he started thrashing around. Soon the alarm went off and Tony McGinn was told staff were giving his son’s heart had stopped and he was receiving a heart massage.

    Tony continues:-

    “I had started praying, but just before 5am three doctors told us he had died. We had to go through all the formalities and all the time I was thinking this is wrong.”

    Sadly, Graeme McGinn died from undiagnosed internal injuries.

    The National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death has found that:-
    “…over half of patients are not given good enough treatment as staff are often too inexperienced.”

    Tony McGinn isn’t surprised by this finding. A pathologist has said that his son would have been alive if his injuries had been diagnosed correctly and swiftly.

    I feel for the McGinn family burdened by such avoidable suffering. There is a lesson to be learned here and the health service’s failure to learn that lesson impacts upon us all.

    ‘Cos to-morrow night…. it could be us in that understaffed emergency room.

    So, I hear Altnagelvin Hospital ask, “What does this have to do with the case of your mate who left hospital without treatment. This is what it has to do with it. The report also says:-
    “Robust systems need to be put in place for handover of patients between clinical teams with readily identifiable agreed protocol-based handover procedures. Clinicians should be made aware of these protocols and handover mechanisms. ”

    I suggest that these procedures need to start when someone arrives at the hospital. That is where we need the really experienced personnel to assess the extent of patients’ injuries and to manage their treatment. If we don’t have those experienced people in place in Altragelvin then our hospital trust is NOT doing its job.

  4. Daisy says:

    Graeme was my ex-boyfriend.
    I still miss him with every piece of my heart and I know I always will.

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