575 on trolleys as flu activity escalates

As the number of patients on trolleys who are awaiting a hospital bed increased to 575 yesterday, the HSE warned that the nasty flu season is far from over.

There is a concern that the B strain in the flu vaccine is not the same as the circulating virus, but the health authority says there will be a degree of “cross-protection”.

A HSE spokesperson said flu activity would continue to increase over the next couple of weeks and, after, decline over a four- to five-week period.

Cork University Hospital was the worst-affected by hospital overcrowding yesterday, with 46 patients waiting for admission to a bed, according to the Irish Nurses’ and Midwives’ Association.

The INMO’s Trolley and Ward Watch showed 575 patients were on trolleys in emergency departments or in the wards, an increase of 20 on Monday’s figure.

St Vincent’s University Hospital, in Dublin, had 37, the highest number of patients waiting on trolleys, in its emergency department. CUH’s ED had 33 patients on trolleys, the second-highest number, followed by the Mater Hospital, with 32. Over the last few days, CUH transferred 18 patients to the Mater Private Hospital in Cork, as part of a number of measures to free up capacity.

The Private Hospitals’ Association urged Health Minister Simon Harris to make better use of the additional capacity offered by private hospitals.

The association’s chief executive, Simon Nugent, said that, with improved planning, the private sector could better assist in addressing the deficits of the public system.

“Some of our members are being asked to open beds to public patients to relieve overstretched public hospitals, but there’s so much more than can be done,” he said.

The HSE’s TrolleyGAR figures show that 433 patients were on trolleys yesterday; 205 (47%) were waiting nine hours, and 38 were waiting 24 hours.

The health authority’s count is up 6% on last year and is an increase of 14 on the 419 on Monday (when 230 were waiting nine hours).

Meanwhile, a consultant in emergency medicine at Tallaght Hospital, Jim Gray, said he could not understand why people were not on the streets “in their droves”, protesting about hospital overcrowding.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Dr Gray said there were 15 patients on trolleys in the hospital’s ED awaiting a bed, and one was an 84-year-old woman, who had been waiting 22 hours.

“This is State institutional abuse,” he said. “I can’t understand why people are not out on the streets, in their droves, protesting over this scandal that has been allowed to continue.”

Dr Gray said he did not take any comfort from what Mr Harris had suggested on Monday about 2018 being a year of reform.

“There’s nothing, there’s actually nothing specific there that gives me any hope that 2018 is going to be any better,” said Dr Gray.

A spokesman for Tallaght Hospital said there was a clear need to increase bed capacity to meet current demand.

“We are currently in discussions with the HSE to develop a new, 72-single-bed facility at the hospital to address these additional capacity requirements,” he said.

Adult ED attendances at the hospital exceeded 50,000 last year, an increase of almost 8,400 (20%) since 2012.

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