Belfast Telegraph

Hospital overcrowding hits new high

Hospital overcrowding reached a record high in August with more than 6,600 patients left waiting on trolleys in emergency departments, it has emerged.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said budget cuts affected front-line care with almost 2,000 beds shut in public hospitals.

Its figures showed a 35% increase in the numbers who found themselves on a trolley from August 2010 - to 6,624 - a staggering 106% rise since 2007.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) recently ordered Tallaght Hospital to stop holding patients on trolleys as they await admission to wards.

Liam Doran, INMO general secretary, said the figures tell Health Minister James Reilly and the Health Service Executive (HSE) the current cost containment programmes are having a serious negative impact on patient care.

"Emergency department overcrowding, and people waiting for a bed on a trolley, is the greatest challenge facing the entire health system every day. It cannot, and will not, be solved by hiding the problem, with extra beds on wards, thus compromising the care of all patients," he said.

The INMO recorded 401 people on trolleys on August 31 - a figure down to 323 today.

The Department of Health said the problems related to overcrowding in hospitals are complex and will take time to resolve.

In a statement, a spokeswoman said Minister Reilly has established the special delivery unit with senior adviser Dr Martin Connor to implement new strategies to deal with waiting lists and in particular to start by focusing on the number of patients waiting on trolleys.

"Since his appointment in June Dr Connor has been evaluating the issues involved, has commissioned essential research and has formulated a set of responses aimed at improving the capacity of hospitals to better manage its throughput of patients," she said.

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