Hospital overcrowding action call
Nursing chiefs demanded hospital overcrowding be given the same priority as the economic crisis as a record number of patients waited on trolleys for a second day.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (Inmo) said numbers have hit 569 - 74 more than the March 2006 beds crisis branded a national emergency by Health Minister Mary Harney.
Liam Doran, Inmo general secretary, accused health bosses of blind adherence to spending limits regardless of the impact on patients.
"It is imperative that the Government now reacts to this crisis with the same urgency, and priority, it has given to our economic difficulties and the supposed need of our bankers and saving our banks," he said. "It is time this Government looked after ordinary people, many of them elderly, who are facing this indignity, loss of privacy and potential compromising of their health and well-being."
Mr Doran said the 569 figure - up from 511 on Tuesday - was equivalent to the number of beds in a large hospital. He blamed political neglect and indifference to maintaining a quality health service and said there was blind adherence to budget limitations regardless of the impact on patient care.
"Saying there is no money and we must do more with less is cold comfort to the 569 patients and will not address their immediate needs or give them back their dignity," he said.
The worst-hit hospitals were Cork University Hospital with 48 patients on beds, followed by Beaumont in Dublin with 45 and the Mid-Western Regional in Limerick with 44. The Inmo demanded Ms Harney step in and reopen 1,600 closed beds. And it called for community facilities, including public health nursing, to be enhanced to minimise the need for people to be admitted to hospital.
Fine Gael claimed the trolley total was a final testament to the Government's health policy. James Reilly, health spokesman, said: "Despite repeated calls for a change in direction by seeking savings and efficiencies in administration and bureaucracy, this Government continues to preside over a policy of hitting the front line. This approach has produced the current crisis, with fewer beds available to patients, longer waiting times, more cancelled operations and the further exacerbation in the number of patients lying on trolleys in our emergency departments."
The Health Service Executive said hospitals were busy this week because of people suffering from swine flu and other seasonal bugs. "Hospitals are taking all necessary steps to deal with the current surge, which in some cases includes the deferral of elective surgery, to help ensure that those coming through the Emergency Department can be treated as quickly as possible," a statement said.
The HSE reiterated that this year will see the start of its National Clinical Programmes, which will focus on standardising care and introducing solutions to remove waiting lists and trolley waits for patients.