A 96 YEAR-old Groomsport man had to endure a 16-hour wait in an ambulance outside the Ulster Hospital’s emergency department earlier this week.

The wait for Thomas Dempster was so long that three ambulance crews were required to look after him with the pensioner, who suffers from severe dementia, moved from ambulance to ambulance while waiting for admittance to the A&E department.

Mr Dempster is a resident of Bramblewood Care Home whose staff called an ambulance on Sunday afternoon when he accidentally pulled out his catheter.

The ambulance crew took Mr Dempster to the new emergency department at the Ulster Hospital, which opened several months ago.

During his long wait Mr Dempster was joined by his children, Maureen Newell, Elaine McKelvey and Steve and Ivan Dempster who took it in turns keeping him as comfortable as possible.

Mrs Newell, who also lives in Groomsport, said her dad had to endure three painful ambulance transfers as ambulance crew shifts came to an end.

She said her dad had to be given pain relief during the distressing ambulance transfers, from one trolley to the next.

Mrs Newell said a doctor came out to her father during the prolonged wait, and attempted to fit his catheter, but was unable to do so within the confines of the ambulance.

Explaining how her father ended up in his predicament, she said staff at Bramblewood noticed he had pulled out his catheter at the weekend, due to the nature of his dementia.

When he subsequently began to suffer pain as a result, staff rang for an ambulance early on Sunday, which took almost four hours to arrive, and also alerted his family to the events.

Mr Dempster was then ferried to the hospital, with one of his children accompanying him.

“They got him to the hospital and he had to wait another 16-and-a-quarter hours before he was taken in at 10.45am on Monday morning.

“He was fifteenth in the queue when they arrived and during that time he was transferred between three different ambulances.

“When I was with him in the ambulance they did a transfer and it was very painful for him being on a stretcher because he has no mobility at all and usually uses the air mattress,” she said.

“It took that much out of him, and was in that much pain, but they gave him pain relief.”

“When the doctor came out to see if he could fix it, he couldn’t manage it in the ambulance, and said he hoped I would raise the issue because people needed to know what was going on,” said Mrs Newell.

Once finally inside the hospital, Mr Dempster was kept for a couple of hours, though the catheter procedure was carried out ‘pretty quickly’ after his arduous wait.

He was returned to the Bramblewood home later on Monday.

Mrs Newell stressed that despite the ordeal her father suffered, she couldn’t praise the staff highly enough.

“The ambulance crews were all great and the ones who were with him on Sunday, who came to collect him at the home, were still with him until at 9.30pm on Sunday night.

“All the ambulance personnel couldn’t have been nicer and they had a lot to put up with because my father’s dementia can mean his mood isn’t great and it’s changeable and it certainly wasn’t their fault. 

“They were so helpful and of course they weren’t able to then go out to answer other calls, just waiting there in a queue,” she added.

“They’re so frustrated too that this is happening so much and are worried how they will ever get out to help people when it’s needed.”

She has also taken the issue up with her local political representatives.

“I’ve spoken to Alan Chambers MLA and he’s reassured me he will look into it, but that he gets calls like this every week,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the South Eastern Health Trust said all Emergency Departments are experiencing sustained pressures at the moment.

 “Last weekend saw a significant spike in both attendances and in patients requiring admission to hospitals across Northern Ireland,” she said.

“Our staff work extremely hard to see patients as quickly as possible, according to clinical priority.”

The spokeswoman added that the Trust continued ’to help our patients and their families to discharge from hospital as soon as possible, once they are deemed medically fit, in order to ensure anyone attending our Emergency Department can be admitted to a ward, if required’.

“Our team will ensure any service after discharge meets the care needs of patients.”