A teacher said he was shocked into buying fleece blankets for patients in Altnagelvin Hospital after his relatives saw an elderly woman “shivering in the cold” as she died.
Frank O’Hagan has slammed managers at the Derry hospital where his sister has been treated for lung cancer.
She spent a week in a unit due to complications following major surgery and chemotherapy, before being discharged on Friday night.
Mr O’Hagan said: “The room is extremely cold, especially at night, but nothing is being done.”
He said he now feels an obligation to fight for dignity on behalf of all the patients.
“They are all at a terribly vulnerable point in their lives and what they are being forced to endure is shocking and unacceptable.”
Mr O’Hagan decided to speak out after a member of his family told him how an elderly woman passed away in the bed next to his sister.
He said: “My brother-in-law was visiting and he saw this frail lady lying on her bed wrapped in a scarf.
“She passed away around an hour after she told him: ‘I’m so cold’.
“Her last words in those final moments of her life just broke my heart – where was the dignity as she lay shivering in the cold on her deathbed?”
Mr O’Hagan, who stressed that he understands the woman’s death was a result of medical complications, said other patients in the unit were “deeply shocked and saddened” by the incident.
But he also said he has no doubt that cold conditions are having a negative impact on patients’ health and that it is “not conducive” to their recovery.
The heartbreaking situation prompted the secondary school teacher to buy fleece bed covers for patients who might need extra warmth.
Mr O’Hagan has also raised concerns to staff who, he said, are “sympathetic” but unable to help.
“I was told they have to put a thermometer in the room before they can do anything,” he said.
“What is the point in that?
“It’s just going to tell them what they already know.”
The English teacher even went out and bought a mini-heater after seeing blinds blowing in the wind on stormy evenings last week, despite all the windows being closed.
“I wasn’t allowed to switch it on because it hadn’t been PAT tested,” he said.
Mr O’Hagan said he appreciates managers have procedures to follow, but said he believed that common sense has been abandoned.
He added: “The practical steps needed are obvious and staggeringly simple.
“These patients deserve their fair share of dignity.”
While Mr O’Hagan praised nursing staff for their “professionalism and compassion” in the “outstanding” hospital, he said he cannot ignore the failings he had witnessed.
The Western Trust said they cannot comment on individual cases due to patient confidentiality.
It encouraged anyone with concerns to go through its “robust” complaints procedure.
The Trust said it promotes the Patients Advocacy Office to all patients, clients and relatives.