A devastated man has told how his mother died after spending hours alone waiting for a hospital bed.
Lung cancer patient Noreen Craig, 71, was rushed to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow after coming down with a chest infection at her home in Gorbals on December 29.
The family claims that paramedics were assured over the phone that there would be a bed for her; instead, she was taken to a packed waiting room in the Specialist Assessment and Treatment area.
Stuart Craig recalled the anguish of being separated from his vulnerable mother, who was unable to speak due to her condition.
Stuart, 51, told STV News the NHS under pressure was “totally broken”, adding: “I just knew my mum would have been petrified.
“I had no way of contacting the doctors, nurses or medical staff if, for example, I needed to go to the bathroom.
“At that time, she couldn’t get up or lie down, so we tried to plead with the medical staff and asked if one of us could be with her, but they refused.
“My mother was terribly distraught that night, terribly distraught. I just wanted to be with her.”
Emergency services were called to Noreen’s home around 6:30 pm after she complained of chest pains. She suffered from emphysema and COPD and was told that she would need intravenous antibiotics.
Stuart and his sister followed the ambulance taking their mother to hospital, only to be met with scenes of “carnage” when they arrived.
“I could see the ambulance line outside A&E and it was like a disaster zone,” he said.
“I was totally stressed and with few resources.”
Noreen stood in the packed waiting room while her children peered through a small window in the hallway to make sure she was okay.
A nurse found a “side room” for Noreen and the family was finally able to get in around 1 a.m. They helped her to the bathroom, but soon after she became unresponsive.
She died around 4:25 a.m. with her children by her side in her last moments.
“One of the biggest regrets I will have in my life is allowing my mother to go to the hospital to be treated like this after assuring her that she would be taken care of,” Stuart said.
“Even though we knew he was terminally ill, it never crossed my mind when I entered the hospital that he would never come out again.”
Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon and health secretary Humza Yousaf have admitted the NHS is facing an “unprecedented crisis”, with hospitals almost full.
Recent figures show that the largest number of hospital beds are occupied by people well enough to be discharged: an average of 1,898 beds per day in October.
The situation in the health service has led to Scottish Labor calling for the army to be sent in to increase capacity.
Responding to the government’s plans, Stuart said: “That’s just talk. I think it’s going to take more than money to fix this.
“It’s just to take more staff. I think the system is totally broken, broken beyond repair.
“The only reason I’m doing this is because my mom deserved better.”
A spokesperson for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “While we are unable to comment on individual cases, we would like to express our deepest condolences to Ms Craig’s family and apologize for any distress they have experienced.
“If you would like to speak in more detail about the care Ms. Craig received, we encourage you to contact us.
“As is the case across the country, our services are facing great pressure, including significant cases of covid, flu and norovirus, and our staff are doing everything they can to meet this demand.
“All of our A&E departments and evaluation units are experiencing extreme demand. While we continue to prioritize the most urgent cases, some people may have to wait longer than they expected.
“In addition, due to the continued prevalence of Covid and the large number of people using our services, there may be times when we need to ask family members to wait outside for the safety of our patients and staff.
“We apologize for any anguish or discomfort that patients or family members may experience.
“We would like to thank all the staff in our A&E departments and test units, and across all of our services, for their continued hard work and commitment during these challenging times.”