Warning hospital trolley crisis could escalate

Staff at University Hospital Limerick fear the crisis could escalate even further this weekend after experiencing a record number of patients on trolleys for a hospital yesterday.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has said conditions at the hospital have deteriorated to such an extent that it fears an exodus of members.

Asked if there are fears of burnout among staff, INMO industrial relations officer Mary Fogarty said:

They are not staying here. They might not leave the country, but they don’t want to stay in UHL.

Hospital management disputed the nursing union’s claim there were 92 patients waiting in the hospital by midday and said there is no crisis at the hospital.

Paul Burke, chief clinical director of the UL Hospital Group, said: “It is not a crisis, it is something we deal with all the time and we have to deal with.”

However, Ms Fogarty said that staff at the hospital are worried about the coming days. She said that the situation has become incrementally worse since the closure of a 17-bed ward last week. Hospital management say that the closure has been offset by the addition of other beds elsewhere.

“It seems to have escalated since Friday, since the closure of the ward, and nurses simply cannot believe that decision was taken,” she said. “They cannot believe that in the most overcrowded hospital in the country, that decision was made.” She said her members were now worried that “it has reached a level and it isn’t going to go back”.

Meanwhile, Siptu has confirmed it will write to the management of Cork University Hospital after the black escalation that took place at the hospital earlier this week. Seventy patients were on trolleys and ambulance drivers said they were left for hours waiting to drop off patients. Sharon Cregan, from Siptu, said that the scenes at CUH were “unprecedented”.

“Staff were working 20 hours by the time they were able to finish. They are entitled to a rest period between shifts and by working longer, it meant that taking this rest period has a knock-on effect for the rest of the week. We will be writing to hospital management for clarification on contingency plans for if this happens again.”

Separately, the INMO has recommended that its members vote to accept proposals from the Labour Court at resolving their recent strike action.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris have denied CervicalCheck officials warned them that offering free smear test re-checks would damage the service.

At the Oireachtas health committee, ex-CervicalCheck clinical director Dr Gráinne Flannelly, who was forced to step down over the original tests scandal, said she told the department that GPs would not be able to be paid, labs used by CervicalCheck would not have the capacity to cope with demand and that the free tests plan would “fundamentally” undermine the service.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the evidence showed the system was damaged by the decision to offer free tests. However, Mr Varadkar said: “The damage to the programme wasn’t done by the minister, but by the non-disclosure scandal.”

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