Emergency Department nurses and their families who took part in a lunchtime protest outside University Hospital Kerry in Tralee were joined by hospital staff and the public.

The off-duty nurses said they were at the end of their tether because of overcrowding in the unit, with patients having to spend 24 hours in busy corridors.

Hospital management in Tralee has apologised but said the overcrowding is due to increasing demand from the elderly in the region.

The 350-bed regional hospital serving north Cork, west Limerick, and Kerry now admits 100 patients a day, many of them acutely ill, but there is no extra staff, nurses say. Most days there are 20 patients on trolleys, according to the nurses.

The ED was built just six years ago at a cost of €4m, but is already too small.

“This is not about the heat. Winter or summer there is not enough capacity.

“Tralee was one of the few Emergency Departments not to receive extra staffing for admitting patients after national protests in 2015/2016,” said Mary Power, industrial relations officer with the INMO.

“It is not acceptable that patients are required to spend days on trolleys in busy, bright, and noisy conditions on corridors, waiting for a bed to become available.

“Our members are very concerned at the daily challenges they continually face, trying to provide optimum quality and safe patient care in an intolerable and inappropriate environment.

“The people of Kerry deserve better,” Ms Power said.

Clinical nurse manager, Margaret Buck, has worked in emergency departments in London and in Kerry for 37 years. She is used to over-crowding.

“When you have patients of 90 years old on trolleys for 24 hours it is very upsetting,” Ms Buck said.

A number of politicians also turned out. Independent Killarney councillor Donal Grady said Kerry had five TDs and all were “sound asleep”.

“Kerry is being left down badly. It’s time our TDs woke up at a national level and got resources for our hospital,” Mr Grady said.

In a statement, University Hospital Kerry said it had been experiencing overcrowding since last winter, “due to the increasing medical demands of the elderly population here in Kerry”.

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