Nurses have warned that the Tallaght emergency department overcrowding crisis is being hidden from public view and not resolved, despite senior government figures insisting this is not happening.
Derek Reilly, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation industrial relations officer, said the recent reduction in the unit’s overcrowding crisis was based as much on massaging figures as on genuine improvements to the service.
The official welcomed the Health Information and Quality Authority report.
However, he said between February and April this year, 713 people were put on trolleys in other wards or on corridors at the facility — a situation the union claims is an attempt to hide the true trolley count figures.
The 713 rate includes 399 in February, 164 in March, and 150 last month — averaging nine every day for an issue both Health Minister James Reilly and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore insisted last week was not happening.
The worst days for this situation, according to the union, were Feb 7 (28 on trolleys outside of the emergency department), Feb 22 (24) and Apr 25 (21).
“Trolleys are being moved on to already overcrowded wards or on corridors where patients have no privacy, no facilities, no oxygen, no suction and staff have obstructed access at critical times to patients in distress or in cardiac arrest,” said Mr Reilly of the INMO.
The issue is due to an alleged overuse of a system which allows hospitals to move emergency department patients to other wards in a crisis, such as a plane crash or road accident.
Last week, INMO general secretary Liam Doran said the protocol was being used almost daily by “eight or nine hospitals”. Dr Reilly responded by saying he would be “very interested in investigating each and every one” of the cases involved.
The INMO is due to start counting these additional trolleys in the coming days.
Meanwhile, the Hiqa report has raised concerns about the time some patients at other hospitals are being forced to wait on trolleys. Hiqa recorded emergency department issues at all public hospitals from 9am on Aug 23 to 9am on Aug 24 last year. It recorded:
* 4 hours 58 minutes (average wait) and 137 hours and 48 minutes (longest wait) at Portiuncula in Galway (67% admitted within six hours);
* 16 hours 45 minutes and 48 hours 53 minutes at CUH (38%);
* 18 hours 43 minutes and 73 hours and 35 minutes at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda (16%);
* 16 hours 27 minutes and 40 hours 52 minutes at Beaumont (14%);
* 10 hours 8 minutes and 26 hours 41 minutes at the Mid-Western Regional in Limerick (38%);
* 9 hours 53 minutes and 19 hours 54 minutes at Waterford Regional (24%).
While trolley numbers are down 17% to date compared to 2011, they are 33% higher than when Mary Harney labelled the crisis a “national emergency” in 2007.
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