Almost 10,000 people over the age of 75 have been waiting on trolleys in Emergency Departments for more than 24 hours in the first eight months of this year, new figures show.
The Department of Health figures, released to Fianna Fáil, show an increase of around 600 compared to November last year.
University Hospital Limerick had the highest number of people over 75 lying on trolleys with 167, followed by Galway University Hospital (154) and University Hospital Waterford (85).
According to Fianna Fáil's health spokesperson Stephen Donnelly, the numbers could rise to 14,000 over the winter months.
"Data for the first eight months of this year demonstrate a serious deterioration in how the HSE treats older patients when they present to Emergency Departments.," he said.
“2018 is already far worse than last year, and I really do fear for the coming winter. I fully expect the total number for this year to exceed 14,000 – a shocking statistic in itself but even worse when we consider that these are our parents, our aunts and uncles left lying, often in a very vulnerable state, on uncomfortable and unsuitable trolleys.
“Best practice, based on a 2012 HIQA report, is that total patient time spent in an emergency department should be six hours or less. The facts speak for themselves – the Government is failing so badly that their recent Service Plans set a target of less than 24 hours for older patients being spent in an emergency department.
“I am deeply worried and concerned for the public hospital system as we move towards winter proper.
“In September, I put forward common sense proposals to increase bed capacity over the winter and ease the overcrowding in our Emergency Departments.
Our proposals including giving EDs priority access to diagnostic services, extending radiology and other diagnostic departments opening hours and enacting emergency escalation procedures far earlier than at present.
“Older people are feeling the brunt of Minister Harris’ and the Government’s failure to prepare for the never ending trolley crisis. It’s time the Government started to deliver,” he said.
Nursing Homes Ireland said that continuous engagement between acute hospitals and nursing homes is "imperative" as we approach winter.
Tadhg Daly, NHI CEO said: “Our health service providers must engage in meaningful, consistent engagement with nursing homes across the country in order to achieve optimum outcomes for older people who are availing of care in acute hospitals.
"Private and voluntary nursing homes are essential to meet specialist healthcare needs, with almost 9,000 people transferring from our acute hospitals to such nursing homes for transitional care last year.
'Timely action by such staff will ‘free-up’ beds within our hospitals and ensure older people are provided with care in the community that is most appropriate to their needs.
We must ensure for older people who have completed their treatment within the acute hospital that their dignity and respect is upheld through timely discharge into the community to their own home or to a nursing home, where appropriate," he said.