A 74-YEAR-OLD who said he spent two nights in a chair at Swansea’s Morriston Hospital said staff were “pulling their hair out” trying to find patients a bed.
Malcolm Davies, who suffers from a long-term respiratory condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, said he was shocked by what he saw. “It really opened my eyes,” he said.
Swansea Bay University Health Board said it was sorry to hear about Mr Davies’s experience. It said high numbers of acutely unwell patients were coming through its front doors and that those with a serious or life-threatening illness or injury had to be prioritised.
Mr Davies, who lives alone in Pontardawe, said he was taken by ambulance to Morriston Hospital on Sunday, August 13. “I was struggling to breathe,” he said.
Paramedics gave him oxygen, he said, which helped a lot. He then waited in the ambulance for some time before being admitted to an assessment unit which he said was part of the hospital’s emergency department.
Mr Davies said he spent the first night in a large room at the unit on a chair. “It was like a kitchen chair, with a plastic seat, ” he said. “It didn’t recline, but it had armrests.”
He reckoned there were around 20 other chair-bound patients in the room, and that privacy was lacking. “It was a really big room, the lights were on all the time, the nurses were back and forward, and there was some snoring,” said Mr Davies. “The only privacy you had was if you went to the bathroom. I could not believe it.”
He claimed that pillows weren’t available, prompting him to roll up a blanket and use it as one. He said he remained in the room the following day, and was provided with a more comfortable reclining chair. But another long night awaited. “Blinking heck, it was never-ending,” he said.
Mr Davies said a bed finally became available at the unit on the third day. He had two nights in it before being discharged home on Thursday, August 17. During that time he had tests and caught up on sleep between them.
“The staff could not do enough for you, they were so kind, and my treatment was perfect,” he said. “But staff were pulling their hair out. They were just not getting anywhere.”
Mr Davies said his medication was changed, which helped a lot, but that the experience of sleeping in a chair for two nights had left a mark. “It’s horrendous, really,” he said.
In response, the health board said it was seeing high numbers of acutely unwell patients coming through its front door. “Those with the most serious and life-threatening illnesses and injuries are prioritised, which means that, despite our best efforts, some patients are waiting longer than we would like for a bed to become available,” said a spokeswoman.
She said the health board was sorry to hear about Mr Davies’ experience and be happy to discuss it further with a view to improving the comfort of those patients who do have to wait.
“Ultimately, however, we do not want our patients waiting for long periods for a bed to become available,” she said. “It’s why we have already carried out a significant amount of work around our front door, which is designed to offer the right care to the right patient in the right setting, enabling those who can do so safely, to go home sooner.”
She said the health board knew there was more to do, and was looking to address this. One persistent issue faced by all health boards is trying to discharge patients who are medically fit but who need an onward package of care that isn’t available.
The health board added that the public could play its part by choosing alternatives to accident and emergency, including the minor injury unit at Neath Port Talbot Hospital.