The head of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has said that declaring a major incident at Ireland’s worst-hit hospitals is essential in order to “de-escalate” a situation which saw record trolley numbers recorded for two days running.
The INMO has touted a five-point plan which it said the HSE could put into action “within days” in an effort to curb the ongoing crisis, which has seen some hospital emergency departments over-run.
Ahead of an emergency meeting with the HSE this afternoon to discuss the situation, the organisation called on the HSE to “immediately sanction” the recruitment of frontline health workers, to source additional bed capacity in the private and voluntary sectors, and to refocus hospital capacity to deal with the current flood of emergency admissions.
Trolley numbers across the country dropped by 139 overnight to a total of 621, which the INMO said was attributable to efforts made to source capacity within the private and voluntary sectors.
However, today’s figure remains higher than any seen in January 12 months ago.
The worst-hit hospitals remain University Hospital Limerick with 63 people on trolleys, University Hospital Galway with 46, Cork University Hospital with 43, and South Tipperary General Hospital with 39.
“I think that it is really important because it is the equivalent of a major incident when you have people for whom there are no beds and you have a hospital that has no capacity to do anything,” Phil Ni Sheaghdha, general secretary with the INMO, said ahead of the meeting.
We have to ensure that all of our focus is on getting de-escalation, on getting as many people out of the hospital that don’t need to be there, on providing community services for people, and on providing funding to open community beds and beds in voluntary and private hospitals.
Asked about the INMO dropping a suggestion that all elective surgery in the worst hit hospitals be cancelled after the idea was rejected by Minister for Health Simon Harris, Ms Ni Sheaghdha said: “What we’re we're saying is that all capacity has to be focused on emergencies and on people who are sick enough to be admitted to hospital. We have to focus and ensure that beds are available for them. That's still what we're saying.”
Meanwhile, Minister Harris has been summoned to an emergency meeting of the Oireachtas Health Committee on January 15th to discuss the trolley crisis.
Sinn Féin spokeswoman on health Louise O’Reilly said of the situation that “it has been clear that the planning of the Minister for Health and HSE Officials has failed, and the consequences are drastic”.
The public health system is currently crippled by a lack of capacity and staff, and hundreds of patients are struggling to access our hospitals daily,” Ms O’Reilly said. “The situation is putting the health and well being of patients and staff at risk,” she added.