More than 600 patients were on hospital trolleys nationwide yesterday

There were 601 patients on trolleys in acute hospitals across the country yesterday, the third highest figure this year, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.

Alarmingly, the trolley tally represents a 30% rise on the 460 recorded by the INMO on February 1, 2016.

There were some 612 patients on trolleys in emergency departments or on wards on Tuesday, January 3, and 602 the following day.

The lowest figure recorded last month was 392 on Friday, January 20.

However, the HSE’s TrolleyGAR figures show that 53% of patients on trolleys yesterday were waiting over nine hours.

The HSE counted 471 patients on trolleys, with 252 waiting over nine hours.

The number of patients on trolleys recorded by the HSE yesterday at 8am represents a 33% increase on trolley waiters on the same day last year.

By 2pm, the number of patients on trolleys had reduced to 299, but 226 (75%) were waiting more than nine hours.

The INMO’s latest Trolley and Ward Watch shows that University Hospital Limerick had the highest number of admitted patients on trolleys, at 48.

Cork University Hospital had 43 patients on trolleys, while Tallaght Hospital in Dublin had 41. Both Beaumont Hospital in Dublin and Waterford General Hospital had the fourth highest trolley count, at 38.

Fine Gael senator Kieran O’Donnell said Limerick University Hospital’s emergency department was “at breaking point”.

He was speaking at the Oireachtas joint committee on health which met to discuss hospital overcrowding last week. “Whatever numbers we go on, we [UHL] have the largest number of people on trolleys in any hospital in Ireland,” he said.

HSE national director of the acute hospital’s division Liam Woods said the need for a new emergency department was not disputed.

Pressed on the matter by Mr O’Donnell, Mr Woods said the HSE supported the opening of the new emergency department.

“The answer is ‘yes” within the constraints of the resources we have to do that.”

Mr O’Donnell asked: “If the staff are in place and it is ready to be opened in May, will the HSE support that?”

Mr Woods replied: “We will do everything we can to get it opened in May or early June.”

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