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Working from home didn’t seem too tough at the start of this pandemic. My partner and I are lucky to have jobs where we can still earn a crust from the comfort of our house.

The worst part of the lockdown was not travelling up to our border county home to see the folks. We missed them in their cocoons.

A few weeks ago, the worst happened, one of our parents had a stroke and very quickly rushed to Hospital. The last place we wanted to send a loved one during a pandemic, but a stroke is a stroke. The neighbours, the local GP, ambulance driver acted so swiftly that the treatment was administered just in time and the main man was ready to fight another day.

Information was hard to get and getting into see the patient was an absolute “no no” or at least that’s what I thought. When my other half returned from dropping clothes into his Dad, he said the nurse was really nice, she let me in to see Dad for a minute. My heart sank. Who else did the nice nurse let in, she was being kind but COVID19 ain’t so kind and less so with no Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

“Trying to get to talk to the treating consultant was not easy”

The worrying started. Once the stroke was treated all we wanted to do was get Dad home. Ringing the ward and trying to get to talk to the treating consultant was not easy. When we did get to talk to a Health Care Worker HCW we were told there was a queue for the final scan needed before he could be discharged. This narrative went on for 4 days – eventually after a heated discussion with one HCW we got some answers.

Asking about whether there was equality for all patients and if stroke patients were being deprioritised - we were told there were actually no staff available to do the scan due to them being in isolation – fair enough.

Why didn’t we hear that from the get go. I just can understand why they can’t just be straight ? patients and families can handle the truth, it’s a pandemic, it’s no one’s fault but we have to be honest.

“What we can’t handle is not having information”

What we can’t handle is not having all the information. No one, including that HCW wanted our Dad in the hospital one minute longer because of the risk of COVID19. We worried about the risk of not having that final scan but after a good “chat” we all agreed it was time to go home.

“So you know doctor that the patient you are discharging could have COVID19 now?

Do you know that he cares for and lives with someone in her late 70s?”

“Eh no? “

“So, are we isolating him at home?”

“Well there’s no symptoms so we can’t test?”

“Literally ran away”

Fast forward to later that day, elderly Dad brought to the door of the hospital by a nurse and his overnight bag was handed to his son – then she ran away, literally ran away, No isolation advice and no chat about the risks of COVID19.

Is it her fault? Is it the Doctors fault? No, they are doing their very best and operating to the processes and procedures in place. They are putting themselves at risk and that is admirable.

“Who writes the procedures?”

My question is, who writes the procedures? Why wasn’t there a policy of testing patients who have been exposed to HCWs with COVID19? I am sure if the policy existed the HCWs would have executed the test and relevant advice on isolation.

My elderly Dad was in the care of his son for a week after leaving the hospital, did he isolate – no. Why?

“The kids might have insisted on it but sure the doctor didn’t say it was necessary.” he could be heard thinking!

“Right so Da, will you get a test then just to be safe?”

“Alright son”

“Mammy collapses”

3 days later the test is positive, 3 days later again, Mammy collapses and spends 2 weeks in hospital with COVID19. The adult “kids” have symptoms – son tests positive.

“Media blaming the nordies”

Stories abound about the high numbers of COVID19 on the border and media blaming the nordies. I am no expert, but it doesn’t take a genius to work out that if we are discharging patients into the community without isolating them or testing them then your local hospital has a large part to play in the high numbers contacting the virus.

“What about the old people with no annoying relatives to stand up for them?”

I hope this story helps others. We need better guidelines for hospitals when discharging all patients. We also need to think about the loneliness of patients in hospital tonight. They can’t see their families; their families can’t see them and most importantly no one can have a face to face with the treating team.

We had an awful experience with one HCW but to be very fair to the hospital after raising the issue they apologised. Information has been so much more forthcoming since then – but what about the old people with no annoying relatives to stand up for them?

Our Taoiseach asked us to cherish the elderly – processes in the HSE need to reflect that sentiment.


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