The number of people on trolleys at Cork University Hospital hit a record high yesterday, prompting more criticism of the HSE’s resourcing of the hospital.
Meanwhile, two of the largest hospitals in the country have warned people to stay away due to high levels of influenza patients.
The Irish Nurses’ and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said 620 admitted patients were waiting for beds nationally yesterday morning, 73 of whom were at Cork University Hospital — the highest count ever at the hospital.
Liam Conway, INMO industrial relations officer for CUH, said immediate de-escalation policies are needed to address overcrowding.
“This is a crisis situation. Our members on the frontline are describing the situation as ‘horrendous’ for both staff and patients,” said Mr Conway.
The bulk of patients without beds are over 75, often at one of the most vulnerable points in their lives.
“We are calling for the hospital to fully implement de-escalation policies. This means cancelling electives, stopping non-emergency admissions, and sourcing extra bed capacity from the private- and public-sector services. This de-escalation should continue next week, until the hospital is stabilised.
“There have been over 50 nursing vacancies in CUH for several months, due to the HSE’s cost-cutting, ‘go-slow’ recruitment policy. After much lobbying, we got the HSE to approve recruitment for the posts on December 20 — far too late to make a difference this winter.”
Of the 620 patients waiting for a bed nationwide, 433 were in emergency departments, while 187 were in other wards.
After CUH, the worst-hit hospitals yesterday were University Hospital Limerick, where 57 patients were without a bed, and University Hospital Galway and Mayo University Hospital (35 each).
The record numbers at CUH come during flu season, which the HSE says appears to have peaked.
The South/South West Group, which includes CUH, has urged the public to help prevent the spread of flu by avoiding hospitals and emergency departments so as not to infect others.
“Mild illnesses, such as colds, sore throats, coughs, and such like, are usually viral, self-limiting illnesses and can be treated at home with fluids, over-the-counter painkillers, and rest,” said Paul Gallagher, a consultant geriatrician at CUH.
Antibiotics will not work on a viral infection, including flu. Get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and take paracetamol or ibuprofen for temperatures, aches, and pains.
“The flu vaccine is our best protection against the flu virus. The vaccine helps your immune system to produce antibodies to the flu virus.
“If you then come into contact with the virus, these antibodies will attack it and reduce your chance of becoming very sick. You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine, and the flu vaccine works within two weeks.”
Meanwhile, the Mater Hospital in Dublin and the Mercy Hospital in Cork imposed visiting restrictions due to a high volume of patients confirmed with influenza. Both hospitals warned members of the public to visit the hospital “only when absolutely necessary”.