Hospital ‘Sent Home Woman (91) In Midnight Taxi’

An Ulster hospital was today investigating claims that a 91-year-old woman was sent home from hospital in a taxi – at midnight. According to the SDLP’s Tommy Gallagher, the widow, who declined to be named, was discharged from the Erne Hospital in Enniskillen and told to take a taxi the 25 miles to her rural house near the village of Belleek.

The woman, who lives alone, has no immediate family and is in declining health, had been found by neighbours collapsed on the floor yesterday afternoon. She was taken to the Erne A & E by ambulance and had to wait more than 10 hours in a bed before she was discharged and sent home alone – in a taxi.

Mr Gallagher expressed shock at the woman’s treatment. The SDLP MLA said the woman, who is highly regarded in the Belleek area, had been left very confused by her ordeal. He told the Belfast Telegraph: “If it had been my mother and they sent her home on her own at midnight I would be asking questions.

“But this woman had no voice. I definitely think they should have kept her in, at least until the morning. She was discharged that night and sent 25 miles to her rural home. The hospital didn’t even provide an ambulance, but instead put her in a wheelchair to travel by private taxi. She was dropped off after 12.30am.

“This is no way for a caring service to treat anyone, never mind an elderly lady in poor health. I have written to Health Minister Paul Goggins to ask him for a full investigation of this incident and to take immediate steps to make sure nothing like it can happen again.”

However, Linda Saunderson, director of surgical services at the Erne said the Western Health Trust, had not received any complaints regarding the situation. In a statement she said: “It is not possible for the Trust to discuss individual cases as we are required to protect each and every patient’s right to privacy and confidentiality.

“It is important to note that we have not received a complaint from a patient meeting the description you have provided nor from anyone representing any such person nor have we any record of Councillor Gallagher contacting the Trust on behalf of such a patient.”

However, a spokeswoman for the Erne added: “As a result of the Telegraph’s inquiry the hospital has triggered an investigation.”

The Western Health and Social Care Trust has in place a patient complaints and advocacy service where any patient concerns or complaints can be fully investigated and responded to. “The Trust retains an ongoing commitment to all its patients and is always willing to assist any patient in having any concerns addressed appropriately through the route described.”