Patient left on hospital floor ‘too heavy to move’

Krystal is pictured lying on the floor in hospital. The 20-year-old's situation horrified her mother, Elizabeth. Picture: contributed
Krystal is pictured lying on the floor in hospital. The 20-year-old's situation horrified her mother, Elizabeth. Picture: contributed
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A PATIENT with mental disabilities was left lying on a hospital floor for more than an hour because nurses said she was too big for them to move, her furious mum has claimed.

Elizabeth McMahon said staff at the Royal Infirmary left seriously ill daughter Krystal on the cold, hard floor for an hour and a half before she was hoisted back to bed using a winch.

And she claims nurses even told her they would have to dial 999 to get burly paramedics to lift Krystal, whose weight has increased to around 14 stone as a side-effect of drugs she has been prescribed.

Mrs McMahon today spoke of her shock at the 20-year-old’s treatment.

She said: “If that was an old lady they would have had her up in a second, but as Krystal is 20, has special needs – and lots of them – they think it’s ok to leave her on the floor. The care was shocking.”

But NHS Lothian defended its treatment of Krystal, saying it was appropriate to treat seizure patients on the floor and that a staff member had been with the patient throughout. The health board’s account was angrily dismissed by Mrs McMahon.

She said their ordeal began when Krystal began to suffer an epileptic seizure while she was visiting the Duncan Street Dental Centre in Newington on Thursday. She was taken to the hospital but once in the A&E department, had a second attack, brought on by the panic of waking up. She then realised that her T-shirt was ripped, bringing on a third seizure.

Mrs McMahon said Krystal was born without part of the frontal lobe in her brain and has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, cerebral palsy, autism and Tourette’s syndrome.

She added: “She got to the cubicle and just dropped on the floor. I could understand a couple of minutes, but she was there an hour and a half. There were drunks coming in to look at her.”

The 62-year-old, who lives near Portobello Park, says she was left to cover her daughter, who remained unresponsive throughout the episode, with a sheet after NHS staff did nothing to preserve her modesty.

“I said ‘someone has to lift her up’ but they just said they couldn’t. Then they said they would ring 999 to get paramedics to do it. I just laughed. Why would they need to call paramedics to an A&E? It was ridiculous.

“She is a big girl but there were lots of male nurses there. Once they realised I was really serious about getting her up they used a hoist to get her up that way.”

Sarah Ballard-Smith, nurse director, NHS Lothian, said in some cases it was safer to treat seizure patients on the floor.

“Krystal was taken to the emergency department following a seizure and while in the department she had another,” she added. “Staff were with Krystal throughout and provided appropriate medical care. Equipment is available in the department to move patients. However, Krystal was not moved until it was considered safe for her to be moved.

“Patient safety is paramount, and if the staff think there is a possibility of another seizure they may decide to leave the patient on the floor.”

She went on: “Krystal was moved when it was considered clinically safe to do so.”