- Additional reporting by Olivia Kelleher
Updated: Nursing Unions have cited 2019 as the worst ever for hospital overcrowding as they prepare for an emergency meeting with the HSE in Cork, as overcrowding reaches crisis levels at the city's two biggest hospitals.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation says conditions at Cork University Hospital and the Mercy Hospital are 'appalling' as they battle flu and staff shortages.
INMO General Secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha says the HSE has confirmed it will meet with officials at 3pm to try and find real solutions.
#Cork University Hospital entered the record books for the wrong reasons today, with 73 patients left waiting for treatment on trolleys or in wards – the highest number since @INMO_irl records began@RCarrollTV #VMNews has the details: pic.twitter.com/2x9GBsdE6j— Virgin Media News (@VirginMediaNews) January 3, 2020
The INMO says that recruitment issues have left staff dealing with appalling conditions at CUH and the MUH. Ms Ni Sheaghdha says that emergency measures are badly needed to solve the crisis.
"They have agreed to meet us and we will be looking for real measures that removes all barriers for recruitment. For example in Cork University Hospital they had a ludicrous situation where they had interviewed nurses for jobs. They didn't get national release to issue contracts until the 20th of December despite these offers being available from early October."
Sinn Fein says the Health Minister could have dealt with the flu situation better.
Deputy Louise O'Reilly says Simon Harris should have opened extra beds to ensure that the capacity was there.
"What we really need is an urgent need for capacity within the health service.
Meanwhile, 118,367 patients went without hospital beds in 2019, according to end-of-year analysis by the INMO released earlier this week.
This confirms 2019 as the worst-ever year for hospital overcrowding since records began - 9% higher than 2018.
Over 1,300 of the patients were children younger than 16. The worst months for overcrowding in 2019 were November (12,055), October (11,452), and September (10,641).
The INMO points to understaffing and a lack of capacity as key drivers of overcrowding. There are 411 fewer inpatient beds in Ireland’s hospitals today than a decade ago, despite a larger, older population.
INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha says things are getting worse, not better.
"These figures should be falling, but we’re going the wrong direction. 2019 saw thousands more patients without proper beds – often at one of the most vulnerable points in their lives."