Arthritic grandmother says 'inhumane' hospital staff forced her to spend 6 days in 'upright' chair

Arthritic grandmother says 'inhumane' hospital staff forced her to spend 6 days in 'upright' chair
(Representational image/Michael Ciaglo/Getty)

CARDIFF, WALES: A grandmother has claimed that she was forced to spend six days stuck in a chair while staying in a grimy A&E department. Val Griffiths, from Canton, Cardiff, was diagnosed with severe food poisoning in August and has had problems with her breathing ever since. Last week her condition got so bad that her son drove her to the emergency unit at the University Hospital of Wales (UHW) to get expert help. 

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However, she claims she spent the entire stay, from Tuesday, September 27 to Sunday, October 1, on an uncomfortable chair connected to an IV drip surrounded by other patients. She said not only was there no privacy in her area of the unit, known as the 'IV lounge', but she also wasn't given any medication for 24 hours as the staff had "accidentally scrubbed her name off the whiteboard." Griffiths who refused to reveal her age said that she did not intend to blame the individual staff for her care. 

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"I'm not trying to criticise 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," said Griffiths according to Daily Mail. "It's absolutely not fit for purpose. Inhumane is the word I would use to describe it. I've told my son to never take me there again." It is unknown why she was not offered any bed during her six-day stay at the hospital. Most instances of 'corridor care', where patients are cared for outside of designated ward areas, are due to hospital overcrowding. Griffiths also claimed that she slept on the chair. 

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She has severe arthritis in her spine and is recovering from a double spinal fracture. The grandmother was given antibiotics through an IV drip upon her admission to A&E but she said that as the department was so incredibly busy she feared mistakes were being made. "One day I didn't have any observations done, I didn't have my medication, my drip wasn't replaced and I didn't see a doctor. I was totally confused why this was happening. They have a board there with all the patients' names on it and I could see my name had been scrubbed off," she recalled. "I queried it with one of the nurses when I had a walk around, and she then went on the computer and could see that I should have been on there and added it again. They then came in and did my obs straight away and they got my medication. Those are the sort of mistakes that are being made."

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Griffiths, a former employee for Oxfam who worked as an area manager for Wales claimed that her legs became very swollen during her time in the unit sitting on a high-backed chair, but it wasn't until day five that she claims she was given a more comfortable reclining chair that had been recently purchased by the health board. "I was told to get my legs up above my heart - have you ever tried doing that sitting in an upright chair? I'm not young. I couldn't believe what they were saying to me," she said. 

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On Saturday night, Val said one of the patients who came onto the 'IV lounge' was "clearly alcohol or drug dependent" and was constantly trying to get her cannula out of her arm. "We'd stopped her a number of times from getting this cannula 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 lads in the room with us who were probably in their 20s, and this woman put her hand down her trousers and just started masturbating in front of them - just absolutely disgusting. At that point I told the nurses I would discharge myself if she wasn't moved. Thankfully they did move her, but who made that decision to put her in a room with us? She wasn't mentally well." 

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On Sunday, October 2, Griffiths said staff made the decision to discharge her and not transfer her to a ward in the main hospital. "They discharged 16 of us in one go which seemed like an awful lot to me," she added. "It felt like they were just clearing us out. By that point I just wanted to get out of there and come home. I'm now on oral antibiotics but my breathing is still not right." She believes system-wide pressures in the Welsh NHS are causing terrible bottlenecks in A&E. "I think care in the community isn't there. What happens then is they can't shift people out of wards, it then causes blockages in A&E and its staff are having to cope with that." 

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Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) visited the University Hospital of Wales' A&E department between June 20 and 22 and found that it was overcrowded, visibly dirty, and could not guarantee the safety and dignity of patients. In response to Griffiths' claims, a Cardiff and Vale University Health Board spokesperson said, "We are sorry to hear that Ms Griffiths recently had a poor experience while in our care. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss the concerns raised by Ms Griffiths via our dedicated Concerns Team so we can thoroughly explore the issues."

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