By Ellen Barr
Derry Journal
Monday 12 March 2012

**THIS is unacceptable

A Derry woman who was rushed to Altnagelvin Hospital by ambulance on Thursday evening with a suspected lung clot waited over six hours in a wheelchair before being seen by a doctor.

Mary Melarkey, a 73-year-old from Eglinton, had suffered a lung clot two years ago and was immediately sent to hospital by her GP when she started experiencing similar symptoms.

Her husband Joseph said he was extremely worried about his wife but was assured by their local doctor that with an admission letter she would be sent to a bed in the hospital’s Acute Ward straight away.

He told the Sunday Journal: “When the ambulance man gave in the letter from the GP at Altnagelvin’s Acute Ward, the only response from the person behind the desk was ‘A and E.’ We were told that admissions for the Acute Ward closed at 6pm.

Mr Melarkey then sat with his wife, who he says was very unwell, until a doctor saw them at 1:30am.

“I usually never complain about anything but I just can’t believe what my wife was put through on Thursday,” he said.

“At the start we never thought we’d have to wait that long. First a nurse told us that we were for the main hospital and that they would get a medical doctor down to us as soon as possible. That was before 8 o’clock. Two hours later no-one had turned up and I asked again and was told that doctors were changing shifts. At 12:20 we were still waiting and the toilet facilities were out of order so at that point I thought I’d be better off taking my wife home.

“At this point staff said I’d be taking a big risk to move Mary because if she did have a clot and it moved it could be very dangerous. So it was acceptable to let her sit in a chair unseen for hours but it wasn’t acceptable for me to take her home,” he said.

Mr. Melarkey then decided to stay on at the hospital with his wife who was eventually seen by a doctor at 1:30am.

“When we did actually see the doctor we were treated very well,” he said.

“The doctor was very apologetic and told us that admissions to the acute ward closed at 9pm. Earlier we’d been told admissions closed at six and then another nurse had told us they closed at seven so I’m not sure who was correct. If admissions to the ward did close at 9 and we’d been there since 7:30pm why weren’t we admitted?”

After his wife was examined by a doctor, Mr. Melarkey was told she had pneumonia at the bottom of her lung. The Eglinton woman was sent home after 4:00am, almost nine hours after arriving at Altnagelvin. She has been in bed since.

The 72-year-old Eglinton man, who suffers with arthritis himself, continued.

“It just feels like once you go past 35, nobody cares about you. You’re just considered an old fogey. We’ve worked hard and paid tax all our lives and this is what we get. I think we’ve earned a wee bit of service after all those years. I’m speaking out because I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what we did,” he said.

When contacted on the matter, a Western Trust spokesperson said:

“Respecting confidentiality the Trust cannot comment on an individual patient/client. If a patient/client has any issue in relation to their treatment or care they are encouraged to raise such issues through the Trust’s comments and complaints system. All complaints received are investigated thoroughly and promptly, and a response issued to the person making the complaint as soon as possible.”