A grandmother who was forced to spend six days strapped to a chair while staying in an unsanitary Welsh emergency department has described the experience as ‘inhuman’.
Val Griffiths, from Canton, Cardiff, was diagnosed with severe food poisoning in August and has had problems breathing ever since.
Her condition got so bad last week that her son rushed her to the emergency department at the University Hospital of Wales (UHW) for specialist help.
But she claims she spent the entire stay — from Tuesday, Sept. 27, to that Sunday — not in a bed, but in an uncomfortable chair connected to an IV drip.
The former charity worker said this area, dubbed the ‘IV lounge’, not only had no privacy, but added that she was also given no medication for 24 hours after staff ‘accidentally scrubbed her name off the board’.
Now back at home, Mrs Griffiths said she did not blame individual staff for her care, but added that the NHS seemed unfit for purpose.
“I’m not trying to criticize the nurses as they are under almost constant pressure, but from my experience it felt like I was in a hospital in a third world country,” she said.
‘It is absolutely not fit for purpose. Inhuman is the word I would use to describe it. I have told my son to never take me there again.’
This is where Val Griffiths, an elderly grandmother, was forced to spend a nightmarish six-day stay in the emergency department at the University Hospital of Wales
Ms Griffiths, who has now recovered at home, described the conditions she suffered as ‘inhumane’
Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, which runs the University Hospital of Wales (pictured), said it was “saddened to hear” Ms Griffiths had a “bad experience in our care”
The scandal over hospital parking charges continues as analysis shows a website is charging £76 a day
Hospitals are putting pressure on ambulance services by charging patients up to £76.80 a day to park, campaigners warned yesterday.
They said skyrocketing parking charges mean many ill Britons can no longer afford to drive to A&E and rely on 999 vehicles instead.
Researchers analyzed parking charges at 120 of England’s top hospitals.
They found that St Thomas’ Hospital in central London – opposite the Palace of Westminster – was the most expensive at £3.20 an hour, or £76.80 a day.
Seven of the ten most expensive parking spaces for a 24-hour stay were in the capital.
The most expensive outside London was Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge, which costs £22, according to research by car sales firm Motorfinity.
Department of Health guidance says NHS hospitals can charge for parking, but prices should be ‘reasonable for the area’.
Trusts must offer free parking to some groups, including disabled patients and parents of sick children staying overnight.
Tory MP Sir Mike Penning, who campaigned against hospital parking charges, said: ‘The NHS is based on the principle that it should be free at the point of delivery and that should apply to motorists, whether patients or their loved ones who are visit at a time when there is a need.
In a story first reported by Wales Online, it was not clear why Ms Griffiths was not offered a bed during her six-day ordeal.
Most cases of ‘corridor care’, where patients are cared for outside designated ward areas, are due to hospital overcrowding.
It was also unclear whether she depended on staff to feed, water and go to the toilet, or if her family helped out.
Ms Griffiths, who has severe arthritis in her spine and is recovering from a double spinal fracture, said she was given antibiotics through an IV drip on her admission to A&E.
But she added that since the department was so incredibly busy, she feared mistakes would be made.
‘One day I didn’t get any observations done, I didn’t have my medicine, my drip wasn’t changed and I didn’t see a doctor. I was completely confused as to why this happened,’ she said.
‘They have a board there with all the patients’ names on it and I could see that my name had been scrubbed off.
‘I asked one of the nurses about it when I went round and then she went on the computer and could see that I should have been there and added it back.
“Then they came in and did my obs right away and they got my meds. That’s the kind of mistake that gets made.’
Ms Griffiths, who worked for Oxfam as area manager for Wales, added that her legs became very swollen during her time in the ward, where she sat on a high-backed chair.
It was only on day five of her stay that she claims she was given a more comfortable armchair, which had recently been purchased by the health board.
‘I was told to bring my legs up over my heart – have you ever tried doing that in an upright chair? I’m not young. I couldn’t believe what they said to me.’
On Saturday night, Ms Griffiths said one of the patients in the ‘IV lounge’ was ‘clearly alcohol or drug dependent’ and the hospital was so understaffed that it fell on the patients to stop her ripping the drip out of her own arm.
“We had stopped her a number of times getting this needle out – a nurse can’t sit with her 24-7 so we took it upon ourselves to step in,” she added.
‘We had two young boys in the room with us who were probably in their 20s and this woman put her hand down her pants and just started masturbating in front of them – just absolutely disgusting.
“At that time I told the nurses that I would discharge myself if she was not moved.
‘Thankfully they moved her, but who made the decision to put her in a room with us? She was not feeling well mentally.’
On Sunday, October 2, Mrs Griffiths said staff took the decision to discharge her and not transfer her to a ward in the main hospital.
“They discharged 16 of us at once, which seemed like a lot to me,” she said.
‘It felt like they just cleared us out. At that point I just wanted to get out of there and come home. I am now on oral antibiotics but my breathing is still not right.’
Ms Griffiths said she believes system-wide pressures in the Welsh NHS are causing dire bottlenecks in A&E.
‘I think that care in society is not there. What then happens is they can’t move people out of the wards, it causes blockages in the A&E and its staff have to cope.
‘There is a clear lack of communication in the A&E as to what is happening with the patients as they don’t have time to talk to them.
‘I spoke to one of the senior nurses and asked her how morale was in the team. She couldn’t answer me verbally other than pulling an exaggerated grinning face.’
Healthcare Inspectorate Wales visited the University Hospital of Wales’ emergency department between 20 and 22 June and found it to be overcrowded, visibly dirty and failing to guarantee the safety and dignity of patients.
In response to Ms Griffiths’ claims, a spokesman for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said: “We are sorry to hear that Ms Griffiths recently had a bad experience while in our care.”
They added that they would welcome the opportunity to discuss the concerns that she raised directly.