More than 13,000 people over the age of 75 waited on trolleys for over 24 hours in emergency departments this year, it has emerged.
The number of elderly people waiting 24 hours or more on trolleys soared from 10,000 last year to 13,466 — a 35% increase.
Fianna Fáil’s health spokesman, Stephen Donnelly, described the figure as “devastating”.
“This is a damning indictment of a Government that is destroying our public healthcare system,” he said.
Mr Donnelly also referred to the assault of an elderly woman in a Cork hospital.
“We now live in a country where a 74-year-old woman, having spent 72 hours on a trolley, was found on the floor screaming in pain with a broken hip following an assault from a drunken patient,” he said.
He said it was ironic the figures emerged on the same day the HSE’s Winter Plan was published. The plan to tackle hospital overcrowding does not include extra acute hospital beds or staff.
“We are focused this winter on ensuring that patients are provided with the appropriate care to meet their needs as quickly as possible,” said the health authority’s chief operations officer, Anne O’Connor.
The plan will focus on the timely discharge of patients from hospital to appropriate care in the community including home care, stepdown-transitional care or long-term care.
Mr Donnelly said the solutions should include providing safe staffing levels for nurses and equipping GPs to treat people at home or in their communities.
Diagnostic imaging departments should open longer and home care packages should be in place so patients could be safely discharged, he added.
Meanwhile, an inquest heard that a 40-year-old man was found dead in Tallaght Hospital’s emergency department after entering it 12 hours earlier.
A couple noticed Brian Hamilton was slumped over on a seat in the Dublin hospital’s waiting area on April 14, 2018, and alerted a nurse. Medical staff were unable to revive him.
The inquest heard from a nurse who said people often entered the emergency department for shelter and were asked to register so they could be linked to the services they needed.
Coroner Myra Cullinane adjourned the inquest as she wants to hear what changes the hospital has implemented since Mr Hamilton’s death.