Northern Ireland Accident and Emergency Department like a 'disaster film', says leading nurse

Royal Victoria HospitalRoyal Victoria Hospital
Royal Victoria Hospital
The head of a nursing union has described scenes at the Royal Victoria Hospital's emergency department as being akin to "a disaster film".

Rita Devlin, the Northern Ireland director of the Royal College of Nursing, made the comment after paying a visit to nurses on the front line on Tuesday, in advance of Thursday's strike action.

Speaking to the BBC, she said she felt like "weeping" when she saw the scenes.

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Emergency medicine has come under intense pressure this year with a combination of RSV, coronavirus, flu and other illnesses spreading to heap pressure on already stretched medics.

Last month, Antrim Area Hospital declared a “major incident” due to its inability to safely cope with the numbers attending A&E, while several other health authorities warned of "extreme pressure" at hospitals elsewhere.

Dr Paul Kerr, vice president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine in Northern Ireland and an emergency medicine consultant since the 1980s who works primarily in the Belfast Trust area, told the News Letter at that time the situation is “the worst it has ever been” as he warned of the “grim winter” ahead.

The consultant said medics would now find themselves “scrambling around” if a “true catastrophe” were to take place in the near future.

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Ms Devlin, speaking to the BBC on Wednesday, said: "There were people lying head-to-toe everywhere.

"They could reach out and touch each each other - that raises questions about dignity and infection control."

She added: "Very ill patients are practically lying side-by-side which breaks so many rules around safety."

Hospitals elsewhere are also coming under pressure.

In the Republic of Ireland, a government minister has said that the performance of emergency departments (EDs) which are under “unprecedented strain” is not acceptable to the Government nor the HSE, admitting that it needs to do better.

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Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath was reacting to a new report from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), which revealed that patients in EDs have been forced to wait 80 to 90 hours to get a bed.

The health watchdog warned that overcrowding continues to pose a risk to the health and safety of patients.

It said that patients’ dignity, privacy and right to confidentiality was being compromised.