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Doctors protest over 'atrocious' situation caused by hospital bed shortage

Patient resuscitated in hospital corridor

A patient who suffered a cardiac arrest had to be resuscitated in a corridor at the hospital Casualty Department yesterday because of a shortage of beds.

The incident led doctors and nurses to fire off a strongly worded letter to the hospital authorities calling for an end to the "ridiculous" situation of using parts of their department as a ward due to a shortage of beds in Malta's only acute hospital.

"We feel this situation is far from acceptable, shameful and downright appalling. It needs to be remedied today," they said in their letter seen by The Times.

"We found the patient in the middle of the corridor, surrounded by several patients," they said in the letter.

In this case, the staff did not even have access to basic equipment, including gloves, intravenous cannulae and a crash cart, and the ward doctor was unable to go to help because he was caught up with other patients, they said.

"CPR ALS (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) was performed as best as we could in the middle of a corridor and we successfully managed to resuscitate the patient despite the conditions being so atrocious. CPR was performed in full view of all the patients crowded in Area 2."

The patient was later transferred to intensive care.

According to sources, between 30 and 40 patients were recovering in beds in Area 2 and the corridor in Casualty's paediatric section yesterday.

Although patients have been recovering in beds in corridors for some time - reminiscent of the old St Luke's Hospital - the situation was compounded further yesterday after one of the medical wards had to be closed off due to an outbreak of gastroenteritis.

The staff said they could not be expected to cover patients who were admitted to Area 2 or the paediatric corridor and also the patients requiring emergency treatment.

"We think it is ethically wrong that the management put the Casualty staff in the awkward situation of having to cover the patients in Area 2 and the paediatric corridor despite it being a ward," they said.

A few days ago, consultants at Mater Dei's Department of Medicine also wrote to the hospital authorities calling for an immediate solution to bed shortage and overcrowding.

The consultants said the bed shortage was a threat to patient safety and they would not assume responsibility for system failures that were threatening this safety.

A woman was recently reported to have given birth to her second child on a stretcher in an examination room because there were no available beds in the delivery room.

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