Belfast Telegraph

Number of patients without beds hits 10,641 in September

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said the worst is yet to come as winter approaches.

The figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation say that 101 of those waiting for a bed were children (Peter Byrne/PA)
The figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation say that 101 of those waiting for a bed were children (Peter Byrne/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

There were 10,641 patients on trolleys in Irish hospitals last month, according to a leading union.

The figures, from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), say that 101 of those waiting for a bed were children, and that September 2019 was the worst September for overcrowding on record.

This is double the number of people on waiting on trolleys for a bed ten years ago.

The hospitals with the highest numbers of patients on trolleys last month were:

– University Hospital Limerick – 1,405
– Cork University Hospital – 936
– University Hospital Galway – 884
– University Hospital Waterford – 707
– Mater Misericordiae University Hospital – 639

University Hospital Limerick (UHL) has been at the centre of much political and public attention as overcrowding continues to plague it with no sign of respite, reaching the national record for the most overcrowded hospital in Ireland for a third time last week.

Sinn Fein TD for Limerick City Maurice Quinlivan says the continued overcrowding at UHL has pushed the hospital to breaking point.

“These figures represent a 57% increase on the same month last year – an extraordinary increase in a hospital that was already severely overcrowded,” he said.

“This level of overcrowding is incredibly unfair and unsafe for patients. It is terribly difficult on the staff and nurses who must work in these very trying circumstances.

“(Health) Minister (Simon) Harris has thus far failed to deal with the issues that are causing this emergency.

“These are the issues of recruitment and retention of staff, capacity – failure to reopen closed beds, adequate step-down facilities, and proper primary and community care.

“The people of Limerick and the wider Mid-West deserve access to quality healthcare facilities like every other citizen, but they are currently being denied this.

“University Hospital Limerick is now at breaking point.”

A Department of Health and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) report recently found Ireland was sixth from bottom of 36 nations for inpatient beds per 1,000 population, well below the national and OECD average.

These are simply astonishing figures - especially outside of winter. It's placing a massive strain on our members on the frontline and is seriously worsening patient care INMO general secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha

INMO general secretary, Phil Ni Sheaghdha said the worst is yet to come as winter approaches.

“These are simply astonishing figures – especially outside of winter,” she said.

“It’s placing a massive strain on our members on the frontline and is seriously worsening patient care.

“We have now seen 80 consecutive days where the trolley figures are higher than 2018 – often by as much as 50%.

“This is equivalent to the bed capacity of Beaumont Hospital fifteen times over.

“This is beyond unsustainable. At the root of the problem is capacity. We need more hospital beds and more nurses and midwives to staff them.

“The HSE’s disastrous recruitment pause simply has to go.

“Ireland needs to reform its health service and Slaintecare is the clear path forward.

“But it needs to be more than reports and press conferences. It takes real investment and a shift towards primary care.”

A spokeswoman for the HSE said: “The HSE regrets that any patient should have to wait for admission from the Emergency Department to a hospital ward.

“The HSE also acknowledges and recognises the additional pressure this adds to the work load of all of our hard-working staff involved in the provision of care to our patients.

“By the end of August almost 907,000 patients had attended our Emergency Departments, 3% more than last year with over 236,000 patients admitted to hospital for further treatment and care.

“Acute hospitals are continuing to see a year-on-year increase in the number of patients requiring treatment and care.”

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said the figures were “really shocking”.

Speaking in the Dail during leaders’ questions, she said: “Behind each of these figures is a person who deserves special treatment and decent health care.

“But this morning 610 families are worried sick, worried about a loved one, a parent, grandparent, a child lying on a trolley in a corridor instead of on a hospital bed where they belong.

“I said to you on many, many occasions that your health policies aren’t working, but it’s clear that you don’t listen.

“This September was the worst September on record in terms of hospital overcrowding.

“10,641 patients went without a hospital bed. That’s 10,641 families who have had to see loved ones suffer the indignity of a hospital trolley.

“Landing in hospital for whatever reason can be a very frightening experience. When you find yourself in hospital only to be told that you have to make do with the trolley only worsens the anxiety that a patient experiences and the INMO is absolutely scathing in its assessment of the current situation.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “I want to acknowledge that overcrowding in our hospitals was indeed very severe this morning.

“I want to apologise to patients and staff who have been affected and also to their loved ones who served much better.”

An HSE spokesman said the issue has arisen from a combination of insufficient capacity, high attendances at the ED, and an unusually high number of “delayed discharges”.

“It is a matter of sincere regret to us when admitted frail and elderly patients in particular have to wait for long times in the Emergency Department for beds to become available,” he said.

“This is an unacceptable situation, and does not reflect the standard of service and care that UL Hospitals Group wishes to provide the people of the MidWest region.

“However, we wish to reassure the public that every patient who attends UHL receives expert medical care.”

PA

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