One of the country’s largest hospitals has, for the second time in a week, cancelled operations and asked people not to attend its emergency department due to chronic overcrowding.
Management at Cork University Hospital issued the appeal as it struggled to cope yesterday with what hospital chief executive Tony McNamara described as “a critical situation”.
The HSE said over 2,000 patients had presented to the hospital’s ED in the last 10 days.
Figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation showed there were 59 people on trollies at CUH yesterday — 49 in the ED and 10 on wards — the highest number nationally.
Mr McNamara said those waiting in the ED received emergency treatment but were still awaiting a bed.
The exceptional surge in demand and the large increase in the number of very ill patients requiring admission, has made it difficult to reach the required target of 75 discharges a day, he said.
The HSE said the hospital’s executive management board took the decision to cancel most elective admissions to manage the “exceptional surge in demand”.
“This decision is in accordance with emergency department escalation procedures,” it said.
“CUH will review the position on an ongoing basis to ensure elective procedures are restored as soon as possible.
“Patient care is paramount in CUH and this situation is being treated as a priority by hospital management who have taken steps to address this issue.”
Last week, ED overcrowding prompted similar action at CUH and at Dublin’s Beaumont and Mater hospitals. It resulted in the deferral of some 30 elective procedures at CUH alone last Thursday.
The HSE blamed the surges in presentations on seasonal illnesses like flu, and on weather-related injuries such as broken bones caused by falls on ice, and on other complaints.
But Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said the chronic overcrowding was a direct consequence of the Government’s failure to adequately resource the country’s acute hospital network.“Hospitals are being put in an extraordinarily difficult situation,” he said.
“The HSE has already stated that the acute hospital’s budget has a shortfall of over €100m.
“The health service is simply incapable of delivering on the level of demand given that level of funding.
“It is risking the lives of patients and putting frontline staff in a very difficult position. It is a shameful indictment of Health Minister Leo Varadkar’s management of the health service.”
The HSE last night urged people with an appointment for surgery to make contact with CUH to confirm their status.
It also asked the public to refer to their GP instead of presenting at the hospital, and advised GPs to consider other referral options.
It pointed people towards the Mercy Urgent Care Centre at St Mary’s Health Campus in Gurranabraher, Cork, open from 8am to 6pm, to the Local Injuries Units at Bantry General Hospital, open from 8am to 7.30pm, and to a similar unit at Mallow General Hospital, open from 8am to 7pm.
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