Cork University Hospital staff have admitted that patients will die at the campus due to overcrowding — yet it has the highest numbers of people waiting on trolleys in the country.
A total of 65 patients waited for hospital beds in CUH yesterday., according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s Trolley Watch figures.
“It’s costing lives as people are dying as a result of overcrowding” Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said in the Dáil after the figures were released.
He said that between 350-400 people die every year because of problems in A&E, overcrowding and delays to treatment, according to the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine.
And “experienced medical authorities” at CUH have “reluctantly” admitted to him that some people will die as a result of overcrowding and delayed treatment at the hospital, Mr Martin said.
The overcrowding was described as “obscene” by the INMO which found 649 patients waiting nationally for acute beds yesterday — 464 in the emergency department and 185 in other wards.
After CUH, University Hospital Limerick was the next worst with 57 patients waiting for beds, followed by Letterkenny University Hospital with 48, and Sligo University Hospital with 42.
“Behind the numbers, however, are some horrific experiences for people in emergency departments,” Mr Martin said.
A constituent of the Cork TD had described “unbelievable” scenes in CUH’s emergency department as he waited with a loved one for treatment between 3pm and 5am. He saw doctors and nurses “under savage pressure” with people, including the chronically ill and elderly, “sitting on chairs and lying on trolleys everywhere,” Mr Martin recalled.
Criticising the Taoiseach’s “see no evil” response to the matter, he said that people are “finding it difficult to comprehend this ongoing, robotic, detached response” from the Government.
“It is a huge disconnect. Either we and the people outside are not getting it or the Taoiseach has some insight, that nobody else has, in terms of the reality of people’s experiences in hospitals,” he said.
He said that there is a “real anger” at hospital overcrowding which has become an “overwhelming issue on the doorsteps”.
Deputy Martin partially blamed the problem on the HSE recruitment moratorium, saying that 1,000 frontline posts have been left unfilled and he called on the Government to “at least lift the embargo.”
Speaking in the Dáil, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that the Fianna Fáil leader’s “self-righteousness knew no limits” after his own government had reduced the number of hospital beds while it was in power.
He said that there are 600 more nurses and in excess of 100 more doctors than there were this time last year. He also promised that the budget for the Fair Deal nursing home support scheme will exceed €1bn for the first time next year.
A statement from CUH said that the hospital had “been exceptionally busy in recent weeks” due to the “large number of very ill medical patients”.
It said that it is “regrettable that some patients may experience a delay in the ED” and requested that, where appropriate, the public contact their GP in the first instance and explore all other options available to them prior to attending the Emergency Department if their needs are not urgent.
Labour Cllr John Maher said that it was “deeply concerning” that CUH was asking the public to avoid the hospital by exploring other options before presenting to the emergency department.
He criticised the fact that the Government’s annual Winter Initiative had still not been published.
Cllr Maher said: “This is only early November and we already have an overstretched hospital, while South Doc is in crisis and GPs cannot accept emergencies.
“We have yet to see the Winter Initiative, and what will happen in our hospitals in December and January when the flu season kicks in?”