Twenty patients were lying on trolleys awaiting treatment at the busy Accident and Emergency Department at Cork University Hospital (CUH) earlier today.
Last night, the number of sick people waiting on trolleys was 18, while on Sunday there were 16 people waiting.
Fine Gael TD Bernard Allen today said he will try and raise the situation at the CUH in the Dáil tonight.
Condemning the waiting times at the Accident and Emergency, Deputy Allen called on Minister for Health, Mary Harney to allow the opening of the new €12m A&E for the hospital, which is built but needs to be staffed and equipped.
“How many more people will have to suffer before the new unit is opened?” Deputy Allen asked.
Deputy Allen said the fact that the A&E is still lying idle, waiting to be staffed, is an indication of appalling mismanagement by the Department of Health.
Construction was completed on the new unit almost a year ago, but the process of equipping it has been going on for the past year.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health today revealed that the Southern Health Board (SHB) was recently allocated funding for staffing and recruitment has begun.
It is thought that the unit will now open in February 2005.
Although winter has barely begun, the A&E has already come under extra pressure, leading to fears that the situation will get even worse.
The Irish Nurses Organisation have warned that the opening of the new unit may not significantly reduce the number of people waiting on trolleys.
In the past, nurses have threatened to strike over conditions in the A&E, claiming low staffing levels mean they are under “intolerable pressure” at the hospital.
The city’s main A&E is chronically over-crowded and almost continually under severe pressure.
Over-crowding has already reached crisis point twice this year — in March, ambulances had to be turned away, while in January, surgery at the hospital was cancelled as the A&E was so crowded with patients on trolleys waiting to get beds.