The director of University Hospital Limerick has denied the hospital is in the midst of a crisis despite reports of record numbers of patients lying on trolleys yesterday.
According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), there were 92 patients waiting for beds. It was the highest ever daily figure recorded in an Irish hospital. The HSE disputed the figure, claiming that 39 patients were counted during its own morning time count.
Mary Fogarty, INMO industrial relations officer, described the situation as “dangerous” for patients and staff:
Professor Peter Burke, chief clinical director of UHL, disputed the claims that patients were blocking fire exits. He conceded the hospital was “very busy”.
“It is not a crisis, this is something we deal with all the time,” he said.
The record-breaking day at UHL follows on from the declaration of a ‘black escalation’ at Cork University Hospital on Monday night. Patients were told those entering faced an “average” waiting of 12 hours which was likely to lengthen over the night. Black escalation status, according to HSE guidelines, means the hospital is in a “critical position and clinically unsafe”.
The black escalation was removed by yesterday morning. The INMO said there were 50 people on trolleys at CUH yesterday compared to 70 on Tuesday morning.
Health minister Simon Harris and junior minister Jim Daly held crisis talks with senior Cork University Hospital officials after the incident. Mr Harris told the Irish Examiner a teleconference phone call took place between the two politicians and CUH management on Tuesday evening.
Asked about the situation yesterday, Simon Harris said while problems have since reduced at the unit he is concerned about the development at CUH.
Paramedics working in Cork reported lengthy delays in accessing the hospital all week. One paramedic, who asked not to be named, said that ambulance crews had been hit with delays of “six to six-and-a-half hours” outside the hospital with patients.
“They were sitting with patients in ambulances, unable to do their job,” they said.
Crews reported two to three-hour delays in the days prior to the black escalation this week, including one incident where a crew sat for more than two hours with a patient in an ambulance before being redirected to the Mercy University Hospital.
It was reported that crews didn’t finish shifts unti hours after they were due to do so as they were unable to hand over patients. SIPTU organiser Sharon Cregan confirmed that they will be writing to hospital management to seek clarification on contingency plans if such a situation arises again.
“It has a massive effect on patients and staff,” she said. “It is overwhelming, it is critical and we are very concerned about it.”