Woman with blood clot on lung forced to wait 48 hours on trolley for hospital bed says she's 'lucky'

June Wilkinson waited 48 hours in A&E for a bed but says she is one of the 'lucky ones'
June Wilkinson waited two days for a bed despite suffering with pneumonia and a blood clot on her lung. Credit: ITV News

A woman with pneumonia and a blood clot on her lung was forced to wait 48 hours on a trolley in a Northern Ireland hospital for a bed as the province's health care buckles under the strain of Covid patients and staff shortages.

Despite her long wait at Altnagelvin Area Hospital in Londonderry, June Wilkinson told ITV News she did not mind and considered herself one of the "lucky ones".

She said she had seen so many other critically ill patients who needed a bed more than she did that she was not angry at having to wait. Ms Wilkinson was given a bed on Thursday morning after waiting in A&E since Tuesday.

"I didn't mind, there's more patients that than me that are really, really ill, that need the beds before I do," she said.

"All I've got is pneumonia and a clot on the lung, that's not as serious as what the patients on here have" - June Wilkinson said she didn't mind waiting for two days for a bed as there were patients "who needed beds more"

"A lot of them have the coronavirus and the nurses are under enough stress and strain. I feel sorry for them, I couldn't do it.

"All I've got is pneumonia and a clot on the lung, that's not as serious as what the patients on here have. There's an awful lot of them dying with the coronavirus and I think I'm one of the lucky ones."

Ms Wilkinson was not alone in having to wait days for a bed. ITV News saw several patients on trollies because there was simply no where to put them.

Outside the hospital, a queue of ambulances was building.

A perfect storm of staff shortages, lack of bed capacity and high patient numbers caused by Covid is putting Northern Ireland's already overstretched hospitals on the brink.

A&E consultant Dr Brendan Lavery describes the 'unrelenting pressure' Covid has put on the health service

Staff at Northern Ireland’s Altnagelvin Hospital told ITV News the hospital functions on a knife edge at the best of times, with only just enough staff and bed capacity to cope, and they've been pushed over the edge by the 10% of beds taken with Covid patients.

The lack of beds has meant that there has been issues with the flow through the hospital, and this bottleneck has impacted A&E in particular.

The staff at the hospital are doing everything they possibly can to juggle beds, see patients and keep the hospital flowing.

Dr Brendan Lavery, an A&E consultant, who had been working until 1am the night before trying to secure beds for patients, told ITV News Covid had made the situation "exceptionally difficult". And with winter round the corner, and flu season upon us, the pressure is only likely to grow.

ITV News spoke to several staff members who said they were seeing 200 people a day in A&E and are routinely operating on 105%.

In an attempt to alleviate the situation, Northern Ireland has been sending out weekly alerts asking people to stay away from A&E unless it is an absolute emergency, and to expect to have long waits.

Emily Morgan speaks to Jeracho and Kevin Atos and their mother Jonah. Credit: ITV News

Among those who responded were Jeracho and Kevin Atos, sons of nurses who work at the hospital. They are helping out with portering and catering having seen first hand how stretched their parents were. When ITV News spoke to them, Jonah, their mother, an operating theatre nurse, had been working 18 days in a row.

Jeracho, 18, and 23-year-old Kevin said they "didn't think twice" about signing up to help, hoping that they will alleviate some of the pressure their parents and their colleagues are under.

"The more support staff that sign on the less the strain is on the nurses and doctors working on the frontline," Kevin says.

Their mum and dad are "very proud" of their sons, who are, as their mum says, "doing a very important job".

Coronavirus: What you need to know