The number of people on trolleys in Irish hospitals has risen to its highest level in nearly three months as the Covid-19 crisis appears to recede.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said 135 people were waiting on trolleys in either wards or emergency departments on Wednesday morning.
Cork University Hospital with 20 people waiting for a bed and University Hospital Limerick with 25, both of whom had recurring issues with high trolley figures prior to the coronavirus outbreak, are the two institutions with the highest numbers as at that date. Mercy University Hospital, also in Cork, has 10.
The increase in numbers, a jump of 44% in one day following a similar hike of 74% on Tuesday, carries with it worrying echoes of the unprecedented trolley crisis seen across Ireland in early January after the country’s flu season arrived a month early.
On two consecutive days in the first month of the year trolley numbers hit a record high of 760, prompting an apology to patients and families from Minister for Health Simon Harris.
While the numbers abated somewhat as the flu season receded, the figures were holding steady at roughly 500 as Ireland’s first case of Covid-19 was confirmed on February 29.
In the immediate aftermath of that notice the numbers on trolleys dropped precipitously from 509 on March 5 to just 8 on March 27, the day Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the country would be going on lockdown.
The latest figure of 135 is the highest the daily update has read since March 11, when it stood at 162.
However, the number has seen a similar spike as recently as May 19, when it jumped from 59 to 114 overnight, before dropping once more on May 20 to 63. On that occasion the surge in numbers was also exemplified at CUH and UHL, which recorded jumps of 14 apiece in 24 hours.
Last week, the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine said it had “serious concerns” about the return of overcrowding in emergency departments, saying it would be “unconscionable” and “catastrophic” should a second wave of Covid-19 occur in such settings.