The family of a 92-year-old man have spoken of their battle with the Southern Health & Social Care Trust to provide a care package for his release from hospital following a fall in which he sustained serious injuries.
The patient resides near Dungannon and his two daughters share caring responsibilities, despite one living some distance away.
She explained, “My father is very elderly, frail and considered a vulnerable adult by clinicians treating him for long-standing medical conditions for which he takes medication, requires a walking aid and mobile oxygen to ease his breathing, He is stooped due to spinal degeneration and is significantly visually impaired, recognising people by their voices. Last week he fell and was attended by Rapid Response paramedics who recommended admission to South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen as they suspected he had suffered a stroke.”
Fortunately, a brain scan showed no sign of this, but the fall caused severe head trauma requiring stitches, as well as rib fractures and shock. He lost a considerable amount of blood, leaving him very weak.
His daughter said, “The ward staff were fantastic and the treating doctor was very clear on the requirement for assistance when Dad got home. He was fit for discharge and very eager to get home, but the Southern Trust flatly refused to put a package in place. Dad was assessed and found fully independent which is simply not feasible. Neither my sister nor I were permitted to be present during the assessment. As carers we should have been consulted. We were best placed to set out the long-standing struggles and difficulties Dad has coped with for many years, without complaint and with only minimal assistance from the Southern Trust.”
The patient’s daughter described an interaction with a who dismissed the requirements for further assistance, in direct contradiction of the treating doctor’s opinion.
“We have asked for a risk assessment given the mandatory requirement following any change of circumstances. I was informed the refusal of a care package was because my father can use a commode without assistance. Not only is requirement to use a commode and not a toilet proof of my father’s vulnerability, he cannot use it without assistance as was noted in the ward.”
Concerned her father was bed-blocking, she said: “He wanted home. We wanted him home, but we need a care package. We aren’t asking the earth – just support. My father’s human rights to reside in his own home and to be treated with dignity have been trampled.
“When we challenged the social worker on her absolute refusal to see how things are, she referred to the possibility the minimal existing assistance Dad receives may be withdrawn completely. It’s no wonder people are waiting for beds in hospitals when assistance post-discharge is being denied. We are asking for help. Dad needs it and so do we. The entire handling of this matter has been shambolic.”
A spokesperson for the Southern Trust said: “Whilst we are unable to comment on the specific details of any individual patient, our social work team are in direct contact with this family to progress discharge home.”
This response was provided yesterday (September 6) and when shared with the family, they rejected it completely.
The patient’s daughter said: “While there was initially some positive movement which gave us hope, it was shattered by a brutal, abrupt and frankly shocking call from a member of Trust staff. I was sitting with my father, holding his discharge letter and medication, ready to drive him from Enniskillen to Dungannon.
“We were just waiting for confirmation of the care package which, following reassessment, had since been granted in full, for which we are immensely grateful. However that was swiftly replaced with frustration and confusion when the Trust staff member advised there was nothing more she could do at that point, she had to collect her children and was terminating the call. She then hung up.”
Devastated, the daughter tried to get assistance from hospital staff who couldn’t help and the Southern Trust weren’t answering calls.
“It was after 5pm. I had no choice but to bring Dad home without any indication of what assistance he may get, bearing in mind he was now classed as requiring a significant care package. The journey home should have been happy, but instead I spent it trying not to let Dad see how upset I was.”
Today (September 7) the daughter advised she was contacted by the Southern Trust who have assured the renewed package is approved, however they cannot staff it at present and the family have no idea how they are going to cope.
She said: “There needs to be an in-depth investigation into all procedures in these instances. We as a family have been more traumatised by the fight to get Dad the assistance he is entitled to. How he was ever deemed fully independent is beyond comprehension? In fact it’s insulting. Ward staff described it as totally outrageous. We fought for Dad but what about the people who don’t have family or the patients who just accept what has been decided and struggle on?”
The family have confirmed they are filing complaints against a number of Southern Trust personnel and are consulting with lawyers around their legal options.