A&E trolley crisis hit five-year high, finds report

THE number of patients on trolleys in the country’s emergency departments (EDs) hit a five-year high last year in a damning indictment of expensive government and Health Service Executive attempts to solve the ED crisis.

Figures released yesterday by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) show the number of patients who spent time on trolleys last year while awaiting an inpatient bed reached over 75,000, up from 55,720 in 2006 when then Health Minister Mary Harney declared the crisis “a national emergency”.

The figures highlight the failure of the Government’s €70 million 10-point plan, launched in 2004 to solve the nation’s ED problems.

Yesterday general secretary of the nurses’ union, Liam Doran, said the trend in the first weeks of 2011 suggests that the problem continues to deepen.

Mr Doran called on political parties to make a “clear declaration” of their measures to address the problem in the run up to the general election

The HSE said the trolley figures were “regrettable” but that measures to tackle the issue included the rollout of an acute medicine programme, increased ward rounds to improve patient discharge levels and the re-opening of beds.

Meanwhile, Dr Chris Luke, a consultant in emergency medicine at the Mercy University Hospital (MUH) in Cork city, said “human factors” were exacerbating the ED problem. These included inappropriate referral of patients by GPs, who may have charged patients for “treatment” without actually providing it; a shortage of junior doctors and the “McDonaldisation of medicine”.

“That’s a massive problem for us, people with long-term ailments coming to us looking for this and that. It’s called the ‘McDonaldisation of medicine’, people treating EDs as a McDonald’s, as a medical McDonald’s — ‘I’d like an MRI and two nerve tablets to go please’.”

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