Hospital trolley crisis deepens
The number of patients on trolleys in hospital emergency units has reached record levels not seen since the crisis of 2006.
According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), there were 563 people waiting in corridors, outside wards and in overcrowded casualty departments waiting for proper beds.
The worst hospitals this morning were Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda and St Vincent's in Dublin where 43 and 41 sick or injured patients were being treated on trolleys.
The INMO warned health chiefs to cancel all planned and elective admissions to acute hospitals for two weeks to allow time to bring relief for crisis-hit medics.
Liam Doran, general secretary of the union, said the figures should not be ignored by management, the Department of Health or the whole of Government.
"The immediate measures of cancelling routine admissions, opening beds and emergency recruitment must be initiated as every hour that passes further compromises patient welfare and the workload of frontline staff," he said.
"Emergency department overcrowding was declared a national emergency when we had just under 500 people on trolleys in 2006. We now have 563 patients on trolleys, in the first working week of the New Year, with the situation worsening on a daily basis. This is a national emergency. This is a health service crisis which must be addressed.
"Radical action is now required which must not be limited by resources as we must end this misery for vulnerable sick patients".
Other hospitals with 20 or more patients on trolleys included Naas General, Mayo General, Beaumont and the Mater in Dublin, Cork University Hospital, the Midland Regional Hospital in Mullingar and Tullamore and St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny.
As well as the 43 patients on trolleys in Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda another seven are waiting in ward areas for full admission to a bed.
The INMO warned that patient care was being compromised in overcrowded A&Es with some palliative care patients being left on trolleys for over four days and elderly and frail patients, with chest and other conditions, being left on trolleys with no dignity or privacy.
The union claimed hospital managers were unable to find additional nursing staff resulting in dangerously high workloads upon nursing staff over the weekend.
Along with the cancellation of elective admissions the INMO also called for the immediate opening of additional and acute continuing care beds to deal with emergency overcrowding and emergency recruitment of extra nurses from the UK and Australia.
It said the Government should be allocating funds to community services to increase the number of home care packages and community nurses to allow patients to be maintained in their own home.
The INMO said the bed shortage should be seen as a health service crisis requiring a national response which is not hampered by "normal, bureaucratic, administrative, practices and limitations".
Nurses in Drogheda, Beaumont, Naas, Mullingar, Galway and the Mid-West (Limerick) Hospital Group are to vote on possible industrial action in response to the crisis.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fail health spokesman Billy Kelleher said Health Minister Leo Varadkar should step in.
"Overcrowding is crippling emergency departments at hospitals the length and breadth of the country and is putting patients' safety at risk. This is a crisis which has been deteriorating steadily for the past year, but the minister has stood back and refused to take action and now the numbers on trolleys have reached record levels," he said. "This is a frightening state of affairs."