By VIEW editor Brian Pelan
Just as I was about to retire to bed last night, I received a text message that all parents dread.
My youngest son, Conor, and his friend had been involved in a car accident. Thankfully, they were not seriously hurt but were being treated for whiplash injuries at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.
I headed down to the A&E department at the RVH about 12pm with a bag of food supplies.
As it was a Tuesday night rather than the weekend, the department was not overflowing with casualties. At least, I thought, it should not be a long wait before my son and his friend were treated.
Wrong idea. We were in the RVH for a total of six hours.
What I witnessed was a room of people, some of whom who were in obvious trauma, waiting and waiting and waiting to be seen.
Two incidents stand out in my mind.
A young black man, perhaps in late 20s or early 30s, was kneeling on the floor or at times lying across two chairs, crying aloud. After a while I approached him and put my arm around him.
“Can I do anything to help you,” I asked.
“My teeth, my jaw, are killing me,” he replied before resuming his howls of anguish.
Another man, who turned out to be a taxi driver, had been stabbed in one of his eyes which was heavily inflamed.
He was worried that the injury might force him out of his business due to rules on vision.
The staff – nurses, porters, doctors and security staff – were courteous and professional at all times.
But it was obvious that the system was not working efficiently due to a shortage of manpower, most likely doctors.
How the A&E department at the RVH is organised is down to the management and health trust decisions.
I would like to raise a few questions.
In the year 2014, why are people being forced to wait for several hours before being treated?
The NHS is a wonderful institution but it needs resources. Why does the Health Minister Edwin Poots not put an end to these interminable waits?
Are people being forced towards private care if they want to be seen quickly?
At 6am the next morning our wait was over.
The young black man left the hospital before being treated. He seemed to have give up after waiting for more than three hours.
The taxi man with the injured eye was still slumped in a chair in the waiting room as I ordered a taxi to take us home – far away from an A&E unit that is being strangled by budget cuts.