Tales from the Emergency Department: ‘The toilets were worse than Electric Picnic’

"I now have this just unbelievable fear ... about anyone I know and love ending up in A&E."
Michael Staines
Michael Staines

12.55 15 Jan 2024

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Tales from the Emergency Depar...

Tales from the Emergency Department: ‘The toilets were worse than Electric Picnic’

Michael Staines
Michael Staines

12.55 15 Jan 2024

Share this article

A woman who recently spent a ‘horrific’ night in an Irish Emergency Department has said the hospital toilets were the worst she has ever seen outside of Electric Picnic.

All this week, The Pat Kenny Show is urging listeners to get in touch with their experiences of Irish hospitals and emergency departments and this morning he spoke to Sinéad, who recently spent the night on a stretcher in Mayo General Hospital.

Sinéad is from Cork but fell ill while working in County Mayo.


It eventually turned out she had suffered a panic attack – but it is her experiences in the hospital emergency department that are now giving her anxiety about the future.

“The ambulance brought me into Mayo General and I'm still dealing with just how horrific the whole thing was because as much as what was wrong with me hasn't become serious … I now have this just unbelievable fear of, as time goes on, as my life goes on, as people that I know and love go on, about anyone ending up in A&E.

“It is just actually giving me such health anxiety that when anything is wrong with you, that that's your first port of call and where you end up when you're sick.

“It’s the last place you want to go.”

Emergency Department

Sinéad said the ambulance arrived quite quickly after her hotel contacted them – but she was told that if the call had come through any later, she would have been waiting hours for them to arrive.

She said she was brought in on a stretcher and placed beside a woman who was screaming in pain because she had broken her ankle.

“The foot of her stretcher was literally under the head of mine, so my stretcher was up and her feet were literally under my stretcher and her with a broken leg, it was just awful,” she said.


Sinéad said she was particularly shocked about the state of the bathroom.

“The bathroom itself was probably the second worst I've ever seen in my life,” she said.

“There was the smell of urine, the toilet itself was not OK, everything was just such … I couldn't get over what I'd walked into.”

Asked where the worst toilet she has seen was, she said, Electric Picnic.

“When I got to the door of the toilet, as I opened the door, it was wet right to an inch or two outside of the door,” she said. “It was not OK.”

“I suppose the awful thing is, obviously I had actually come from a hotel, so I was lucky in the sense that I had thought to put shoes on before getting into the ambulance - but if I was going from home, like, I might be in socks; I just don't know would you be thinking of bringing them.

“I just don't even know how an elderly person could safely get to a bathroom.

“You know, it just felt so scary, with people so, so, so, so unwell all night just sitting there.”


Sinéad said the majority of patients waiting in the ED were left sitting on hardbacked chairs for hours on end.

She said she did not see a doctor on duty all night – and she only saw two nurses on duty the whole time.

“They were so lovely but it's just so overstretched,” she said.

“Not a second for anyone and like the guilt I felt because I was dying for a glass of water and one of the ambulance staff went and got me a glass of water but had they not been with me like once they left, there was no way I was getting anything.”


She said there was nobody there to talk to the patients about what was happening.

“What wasn't communicated with everyone who went in there is that nothing is going to happen throughout the entire night because nobody is there to do anything to help,” she said.

“I mean, obviously if you went there with a heart attack, I'm sure you would be moved to another side of the hospital and things like that, but I mean, the slightly minor things, there is no point in going in there until the next day.”

According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), there are 519 admitted patients waiting for beds in Irish hospitals this morning.

Some 399 patients are waiting in emergency departments, while 120 are in wards elsewhere in the hospital.

Main image shows people walking near an ambulance outside the Emergency Department at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, 03-01-2023. Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.

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