'Patients are dying as a result of hospital overcrowding,' consultant says

'Patients are dying as a result of hospital overcrowding,' consultant says

Chronic overcrowding continued across the country’s hospitals as 504 admitted patients languished on trolleys in emergency departments and wards today.

There were 361 admitted patients waiting for beds in EDs, while 143 were in wards elsewhere in the hospital, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

“We've come to expect increased demands on the health service in winter, but now trolley figures this high in August and September is unacceptable,” said an INMO spokesperson.

“As the seasons change, we can only see things worsening without intervention from the Government.”

The worst-hit hospitals yesterday were University Hospital Limerick that had 66 admitted patients waiting for beds; University Hospital Galway had 55 patients waiting and University Hospital Waterford had 43.

The INMO is concerned that day after day the figures are higher than last year.

It points out that today is the 63rd consecutive day that the figures have been higher than last year.

“The risks to patients and health workers continues to grow,” said the spokesperson.

“At the core of this is staffing. The government needs to end the recruitment pause and ensure that services are safely staffed and functioning efficiently."

According to the HSE's TrolleyGAR that only counts patients on trolleys in EDs, there were 385 waiting, with 221 waiting over nine hours and 86 waiting for more than 24 hours.

The numbers waiting, according to the HSE represents a 37% increase on the same day last year when 281 patients were waiting and 115 were waiting over nine hours.

Consultant in emergency medicine, Dr Fergal Hickey said he was “deeply worried” about continuing overcrowding in EDs.

“The grossly unacceptable is now accepted as normal. Official Ireland seems to be beyond caring. So sad,” Dr Hickey tweeted.

The consultant, who is a member of the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine, said the high trolley figures in August and September “gives lie” to the argument that this is just a winter problem.

“The usual excuses made by the HSE and the Department of Health of things like winter vomiting bug, influenza and normal winter pressures clearly cannot apply at this time of the year,” he said.

“The problem reflects a lack of capacity at a time when demand for acute care continues to rise in Ireland, as it does internationally.”

Dr Hickey said the “inertia” of the HSE and Department of Health in dealing with hospital overcrowding was particularly worrying as winter approached.

“We expect a much worse winter than previous winters when there were record numbers of patients on trolleys because the flu season in Australia that is six months ahead of us has a been a record flu season for that country.”

Dr Hickey said it was “undeniably true” that patients needlessly died because of hospital overcrowding.

There were two papers published in the Medical Journal of Australia in 2006 that showed the impact hospital overcrowding had on excess deaths – deaths that would not otherwise occur.

Dr Hickey said hospital overcrowding was probably responsible for around 350 excess deaths every year in Ireland and it could be more than that because the calculation was made at a time when the population was less than it was now.

“Patients are dying as a result of hospital overcrowding; they are having less good outcomes; staff are deciding not to pursue careers in emergency medicine because of the current environment. So it is a lose, lose, lose situation”

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