Thousands of over-75s face 24-hour waits in hospitals

Almost 6,000 elderly people over the age of 75 have been forced to wait on hospital trolleys and in emergency departments for more than 24 hours this year despite a Government commitment to end the scandal.

The new figures were revealed as the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said a massive 57,674 people were on trolleys in the first seven months of this year, a new record that comes just a day after it emerged hospital waiting lists are at their highest ever recorded.

When the HSE’s service plan for this year was published last December, officials publicly promised to ensure no one over the age of 75 would be forced to wait a day or more for treatment at a hospital emergency department in Ireland.

However, despite what Fianna Fáil health spokesperson Billy Kelleher said was a “pathetic” target, a parliamentary question response to him said 5,880 over-75s have already faced the prospect this year — the equivalent of more than 20 every day.

The 5,880 figure to date this year includes 838 patients at University Hospital Limerick, 702 at the Mater, 678 at Galway University Hospital, 458 at University Hospital Waterford, and 421 at Cork University Hospital, among others.

And while the HSE and Government are attempting to reduce the rates, Mr Kelleher said the situation is now in danger of running out of control.

“It’s not acceptable that so many older and more vulnerable people should have to endure such long waits,” he said.

The situation emerged as the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said a massive 57,674 people were on trolleys in the first seven months of this year.

The figure — which includes 4,782 at University Hospital Limerick, 3,949 at Cork University Hospital and 3,319 at the Mater alone — is a new record, although the monthly rate for July is 6% down on 2016.

On Tuesday, the National Treatment Purchase Fund released separate figures showing hospital waiting lists are now at record-breaking levels, with 686,999 people on some form of list across the country — the equivalent of one in every seven people in Ireland.

The figures have led to claims that hospitals will soon be unable to guarantee “routine” day to day services that should be a basic right of patients.

However, speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme, doctor and eye consultant Prof Michael O’Keefe — who has repeatedly raised concerns over waiting lists in recent years — said such a short-term solution would only cause a “bonanza” for private doctors and hospitals.

Sinn Féin health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly was similarly critical of the situation at the launch of her party’s five-page plan for addressing capacity in emergency departments.

She said both issues are connected, and that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has a responsibility to act on and implement the recent cross-party Future of Healthcare report in order to reform the system.


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