7,700 patients waiting on trolleys in May

More than 7,700 patients waited on trolleys for admission to hospital last month — the worst figures for the month of May since records began, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

The ongoing crisis in emergency departments hit another low this month when it emerged two centenarian women had spent more than a day on trolleys in Limerick and Tallaght hospitals.

The INMO said the May figures are “up a staggering 83% on May 2006, the year the then Minister for Health declared the crisis a national emergency”.

Beaumont Hospital in Dublin — where management recently agreed to recruit additional nurses to the emergency department following discussions at the Labour Relations Commission — had been worst affected, last month, with 782 patients on trolleys.

To add to the pressure on Beaumont emergency department, Fianna Fáil Senator Darragh O’Brien yesterday claimed a 33-bed acute surgical ward at the hospital was to be shut down with immediate effect.

He said the decision would “throw the north Dublin hospital into further crisis, adding to surgical waiting lists that are already among the highest in the country”.

Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda, Co Louth, recorded 718 patients on trolleys, while University Hospital Limerick, where a 101-year-old woman spent 25 hours on a trolley earlier this week, recorded a figure of 538. In Cork, 454 patients were confined to trolleys.

The INMO said the figures are up 31% on May 2014 and its executive council has called for urgent sustained action, including major investment, to tackle the issue.

INMO general secretary Liam Doran said everyday was the same inside emergency departments “where elderly people on trolleys are lined up, head to toe, along small narrow corridors with insufficient nurses to care for them”.

The INMO is calling for:

  • Urgent action on discharge practices, to include weekend discharges.
  • Urgent initiatives to recruit the required additional nursing staff.
  • More acute bed capacity and step down facilities.

The INMO also wants additional resources to provide for the expansion of the role of the nurse.

Mr Doran said the Government “needs to take responsibility for this on-going crisis”. “The stated target of having a reduction in the level of daily overcrowding in emergency departments by October 1 is merely a pipe dream without investment in acute beds, step-down beds, enhanced community services and recruitment initiatives for nursing and other staff.”

The INMO will raise the issues at the first meeting of the Implementation Oversight Group, established as part of the emergency department taskforce report which is due to be held on Monday.

The HSE said it had implemented initiatives including an extra €74m provided in 2015 to increase the number of long-term nursing home care places as well as reducing delayed discharges from 715 to 639.

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