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"A stay in the COVID ward"

About: Mater Hospital / General Medicine Mater Hospital / Respiratory (Ward B)

(as a relative),

My mum just came home yesterday after a stay of one week in Covid Ward A in the Mater. 

The process, when my youngest sister took Mum to the hospital was great. Everything moved quite quickly and Mum was admitted in a relatively short space of time.

Mum is a mother of 7 adult children, many grandkids and great grandkids. She is a very sociable lady, enjoys company, a laugh, her soaps on TV, a wee crossword puzzle, her weekend chinese and a good cup of tea. She is normally a sprightly lady and her mind is 100%, perhaps a little slower now, but in no way senile. She has a hearing issue so we were concerned, if the information from staff was being given to her she wouldn't catch most of it. She has a very undemanding nature, appreciative of any little gesture of kindness, not a person to complain, has a good sense of humour and a positive zest for life.

There was no visiting which we understood  given the current situation with Covid (however there was a notice at the ward saying visiting was by appointment). The week Mum was in was horrendous, mainly because the communication from the ward to the family had to be initiated by us. One particular day, I tried the ward from for over 9 hours when I finally got to speak to a staff member - unfortunately I struggled to understand them. They kept repeating that they didn't know anything, and that they couldn't read the Dr's writing. They then said that a page was missing. Seriously! The noise in the background made it even more difficult to try to work out what was being said. There was a promise of a daily phone call if the staff weren't too busy. 

Mum had very loose bowel movements. One day she made her own way to the toilet. She has told us there were times when she asked for help to the toilet, she was left too long and simply had to go alone incase of an accident. Do the staff not realise this is an effect of Covid, so if a patient needs to go, they need to go? On this occasion she didn't make it and needed help to get clean, needed changed and the toilet floor was in a mess. The pull cord for help was broke so, at 82 years old she got onto the floor and cleaned the mess up herself. A staff member seen her come out of the toilet, with a very purple face and feeling very breathless and asked was she ok, she said what had happened. When mum came home and we were washing her down, her bottom was swollen red, blistered and not clean. Nobody had treated that for her.

Mum is used to company; she lives with my sister and her husband and our family are always in and out. Suddenly, she's hospitalised with a serious illness, she knows she may not make it and whilst all this goes on in her wee head, there are no visitors, no tv in the ward, no staff to sit and chat and comfort her, reassure her, no communication with us other than a mobile phone which she's not sure how to use and we did not want to ring constantly and have her fumbling for the phone when she was masked up. The bag she brought in with her on the day she was admitted was emptied for her the day before she came home. We had brought other supplies on the Saturday and it came home the same way it went in. She wasn't eating well or sleeping well. There were food treats in the bag that may have tempted or appealed to her to eat but she didn't have this available to her.

As a family, we are appalled by what our mum has experienced. My 2 sisters and I brought her home yesterday. We didn't expect her to look good, she's been through a lot and we are so glad she has came home to us so I guess we should be thankful for that. However, the bigger concern for us is her words and her reaction to the week she was in the Mater. I am not blaming specific nurses or doctors, she wasn't harmed in any way by an individual, I realise it's the system that is poor but surely to God, a person in a caring profession could have given her some comfort, reassurance, human touch to make her feel at ease? Could somebody not have taken 5 mins to empty a bag - could a nurse not have cleaned her up when she needed cleaned - she told us (in between her tears) the whole way home that she is so traumatised she can't bring herself to tell us how she felt, how devastatingly lonely she was, and yes, we realise at her age, she was likely contemplating not coming out of there but isn't that what medical teams do, a holistic approach to the care of their patients? Or have I got that totally wrong? She said there are no orderly staff on the ward. The staff are not so busy, yet she saw a lot of shrugging of shoulders from the staff, and suggesting that they "did not know". This behaviour sadly, is picked up on by patients and really doesn't give a sense of security at a time when they are vulnerable.

We are all upset from Mum came home but we will be strong to support and nurture her back but I had to write this to try to clear my mind. I know we are blessed she is home but I know it will take mum a long time to get over this, and should she ever need hospitalised again, she will be in fear having went through this ordeal.


Response from Bernie Carey, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust 2 months ago
Bernie Carey
Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
Submitted on 17/08/2021 at 15:50
Published on Care Opinion at 16:48

Dear Daughter of Mum

We are delighted to hear your Mum is recovering well and that she has been discharged safely home. We hope she continues to make a full recovery and is getting stronger.

What can I say. I am both horrified and heartbroken at your mothers experience with us at the Mater in ward A. I am so sorry to hear about this experience and from the bottom of my heart I sincerely apologise to you, your Mum and the entire family circle. This is certainly not the care and treatment I would expect for any patient within the hospital at any time. It is only through raising these concerns that together we can make the patient experience better. Let me address some of your queries if I can in and open and honest way.

The importance of regular communication with families is stressed to all staff especially during these challenging times and for that I apologise if this did not happen. This will again be taken to the next staff team meeting to reaffirm how important information and updates are to patients families and relatives daily.

On the back of your response, we have checked the bathrooms in all wards within the Mater to ensure the pullcord is fully functional and patients are able to access these cords easily. Thank you for highlighting to us.

Daughter of Mum, I do believe our nurses are caring and compassionate people and they do work extremely hard, and so for me we have learning to see how we can better support our staff to raise the standards of care delivered in a more holistic manner.

I apologise for any distress your Mother experienced whilst in our care. Your comments are concerning to us and we would very much welcome exploring these further with you. We would really like to take this forward as learning and we value your input to help us improve the whole patient experience.

I thank you for taking the time to write to us and would welcome meeting with you to discuss and explore further suggestions you too may have.

Best Wishes to both you and your mum and all the family.

Take care, Bernie

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Update posted by NHS Failure (a relative)

Hi Bernie

Your response is appreciated. I am keen to meet to further discuss this with you. Please advise how we arrange this.

Many thanks.

Response from Bernie Carey, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust 2 months ago
Bernie Carey
Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
Submitted on 21/08/2021 at 09:03
Published on Care Opinion at 16:10

Daughter of Mum,

That's great. I very much appreciate that. We need to hear your story.

Please can you contact 02895 048 000 open Mon-Fri 10-12 or 2-4pm. or email Tell them your Query and that I am aware and waiting to hear from you. They will forward me your details and I will call you. I am on Holiday leave shortly, so hopefully We will touch base with each other this week.

Take care and speak soon


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Response from Bernie Carey, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust last month
We have made a change
Bernie Carey
Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
Submitted on 06/09/2021 at 22:22
Published on Care Opinion on 08/09/2021 at 11:10

Daughter of Mum

Thank you for getting in contact. I appreciated today having the opportunity to listen to your story first hand about the care and service we delivered to your dear Mum.

Firstly can I sincerely apologise for this poor quality experience to your Mum and of course to you her daughters. I welcomed the feedback today and acknowledge the concerns you raised on regular communication with you, her family, the apparent lack of positivity among staff and the general concern of lack of empathy and compassion delivered to your Mum.

Our conversation has identified areas for improvement and highlights the need for all staff to be aware of the verbal and non verbal's in communication. This learning will be taken beyond the ward in which it originated in the Mater. I promise to share and action with immediate effect.

Delighted to hear your Mum is growing stronger every day and hopefully will be restored to full health very soon. Thanks again for sharing with us.

Take care, Bernie

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