`Nobody cares about the sick'

LYING IN his hospital bed yesterday afternoon, Aidid Farah was adjusting to life as a cause celebre whose medical treatment has become a subject of controversy and recriminations about the state of the National Health Service.

The 23 hours and 19 minutes that 64-year-old Mr Farah spent waiting for a side room to be free at the Greenwich District Hospital, in south London, has been used in a new report as one of the most shocking examples of the delays faced by casualty patients.

Mr Farah, receiving treatment for a blood disorder, was one of five patients found to be waiting for an unacceptably long period at Greenwich on Monday. Among the others was an elderly woman with diarrhoea who spent 23 hours and 19 minutes in casualty.

Celia Davies, the chief officer of the Greenwich Community Health Council, demanded to know, "as a matter of urgency, what steps are being taken to avoid these problems occurring in the future."

David Astley, the chief executive of the Greenwich Healthcare Trust said the criticism was unfair and stressed that all the patients' mentioned had pre-admission beds and were not kept waiting on trolleys in corridors. Julie Lowe, the hospital's senior director for medicine, said: "The fact is that both Mr Farah and the elderly lady needed to be taken to side rooms because of the risks of infection and we did not have these rooms to hand. The staff here were doing the best they could."

"I am not blaming the doctors and nurses here," said Mr Farah. "They simply need more of everything, more nurses, more doctors and more beds. They are not getting this and that is why what happened to me happened.

"I am not saying this hospital is worse than others, I just don't think people outside, the Government or anyone else, really care about the sick. It is very lonely being sick."

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