I raise the question of how we are treating elderly people in our hospital system and the complete absence of dignity in such treatment. We were all appalled last week when we heard the story of Gerry Feeney, who spent more than five days in the emergency department in Beaumont and was denied the basics of daily living, such as eating, dressing, bathing and getting out of bed, when he was moved to the geriatric ward. Essentially, there was an absence of dignity at the end stage of his life. A number of us have come across an extraordinary letter written by a specialist registrar in emergency medicine in Beaumont hospital, some of which was reported in the media this morning. This individual, who has experience in many hospitals across the country, wrote that the emergency department at Beaumont is unequivocally the most dangerous unit in which he worked. He described it as a poor starting point that critically unwell patients, who have the misfortune to need acute unscheduled care, have their care delivered on chairs. Similarly, he could not fathom how patients on trolleys in front of the nurses' station could ever be regarded as an acceptable solution. He suggested that exposing these patients to sleep deprivation over a period of 24 to 48 hours in a noisy and chaotic emergency department is the equivalent of a health care Guantanamo. He has regularly witnessed elderly patients actively deteriorating and developing delirium during their time in this no-man's land. He thought it a sad indictment of the system that such practices form an accepted part of the day-to-day operation of emergency care in the hospital. He also made a number of disturbing points about heart-breaking apologetic conversations with patients.
While he pointed out that there is a need for a change of culture in Beaumont, I put it to the Taoiseach that last week the Minister for Health stated unequivocally to the Joint Committee on Health and Children that he needed more resources for the fair deal scheme, home care packages and home help provision for elderly people. We are aware of the link between delayed discharges and the chaos in emergency departments across the country, particularly in Beaumont.