Number of patients on trolleys double 2008 figures

There were almost twice the number of patients on trolleys last month than in March 2008, according to figures provided by the country’s largest nursing union.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said the 9,381 patients it recorded as waiting on a trolley for a bed in March was the second-worst figure for overcrowding since its recording began. Only February 2015 was worse at 9,657.

It said the figure for March was a 5% rise on the same month last year and a 100% increase on the 4,701 figure for March 2008.

The Irish Association for Emergency Medicine warned that patients will continue to die needlessly on trolleys until politicians act.

The overcrowding has not abated — and for some hospitals has gotten worse. The INMO recorded 525 patients on trolleys in hospitals across the country yesterday and 533 on Tuesday.

The INMO’s figures for March included reports on the worst-affected hospitals:

  • Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore, saw trolley waits rise from 204 to 568 in the last year;
  • South Tipperary General Hospital was up from 233 to 552;
  • University Hospital Limerick was up from 558 to 710;
  • Cork University Hospital was up from 412 to 550;
  • Bantry General Hospital went from 39 to 146.

Calling for an immediate meeting of the emergency department implementation group, set up last year to tackle the crisis, INMO general secretary Liam Doran said overcrowding is worsening, with a steep hike in demand, a lack of beds, and a severe shortage of nurses.

The HSE last night issued figures which differed from the INMO on the number of people on trolleys yesterday. It said its TrolleyGar system recorded 420 patients on trolleys, with 212 waiting over nine hours at 8am.

INMO general secretary Liam Doran
INMO general secretary Liam Doran

The HSE said emergency department numbers continue to be higher than in 2015, with a 7.5% overall increase in attendances to date this year.

Despite that, it said, to date this year, the total number of patients waiting on trolleys at 8am each morning had decreased by 1%.

It said influenza-like illnesses continued to be an issue while delayed patient discharges had increased to 597, “a key factor relating to challenges in securing appropriate long-stay facilities and increase in the number of patients with complex care needs”.

The HSE also said emergency departments typically come under pressure after St Patrick’s Day and the Easter bank holidays. It said it had expected challenges with the two weekends so close together this year and had taken measures to try to address that. As a result the performance of emergency departments over Easter this year was better than in 2015.

“It is expected that the situation will stabilise over the coming days and that hospitals will continue to invoke full escalation protocol,” said the HSE.


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