'Out of control' hospital overcrowding leaving patients at risk

'Out of control' hospital overcrowding leaving patients at risk

Overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick has gotten 'out of control'. Picture: Dan Linehan

Attending Irish hospitals has become a risk in and of itself due to overcrowding, the general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (IMNO) has warned.

This morning, more than 300 people were awaiting admission to a hospital bed across the country with Munster hospitals the worst affected.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Phil Ní Sheaghdha said overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) has gotten "out of control".

Despite an additional 110 beds being made available to UHL, 51 patients were being treated on trolleys at the region’s busiest hospital on Tuesday morning.

Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha. Picture: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie
Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha. Picture: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

“Today they have additional beds and additional trolleys on wards," Ms Ní Sheaghdha said.

"That should be absolutely the last thing that's happening in the middle of a variant such as this, in the middle of a pandemic.” 

Cork University Hospital is the second worst affected hospital in the country with 41 patients awaiting a bed.

At University Hospital Galway, 28 patients are waiting for a bed, while 22 patients are waiting at Portiuncula Hospital.

Between January and June of this year, more than 25,000 people were treated on trolleys in Irish hospitals. 

The Covid-19 virus is looking for congregations, and Irish hospitals are “providing that," Ms Ní Sheaghdha said.

"Going to hospital should not be a risk of itself. We believe it now is, particularly with the overcrowding levels."

Staff are also concerned about ventilation in hospitals, she said.

“The main reported issue of our members now is that they believe that the air exchange on wards, the air exchange where they're expected to take their breaks etc, is not sufficient.

“And when they hear what is correctly being proposed for restaurants for schools, they're saying, but that's not happening in my workplace?” 

Staff in Irish hospitals are concerned about ventilation in wards 
Staff in Irish hospitals are concerned about ventilation in wards 

There are also issues with staffing, with agency nurses leaving to work in vaccination centres which is putting hospitals under enormous pressure.

The Regional Hospital Mullingar has over 50 shifts not covered over this week and next, for example, she said.

Ms Ní Sheaghdha said she intends to write to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly about the issue. 

The IMNO has also written to the head of the acute hospital division in the HSE asking for extra help from private hospitals in order to ease the burden on public hospitals.

UCC spin-out's software could cut hospital waiting lists

A Cork company has developed software that could "radically" reduce hospital waiting list times, according to its founders Naomh McElhatton and Professor Barry O’Sullivan.

Stimul.ai, a new spin-out company from the Insight SFI Centre at UCC, has designed a strategic clinical design tool that supports hospital administrations in capacity planning decisions. 

The first-of-its-kind technology will support and guide hospitals on how to best allocate times that best match their patient category requirements, without the interruption to daily working practice.

Naomh McElhatton and Professor Barry O’Sullivan, founders of Stimul.ai
Naomh McElhatton and Professor Barry O’Sullivan, founders of Stimul.ai

Stimul.ai's founders say mismatch between capacity and demand is one of the main reasons why waiting lists and backlogs develop and why waiting lists and waiting times increase.

In trials, the software has helped hospitals slash waiting list times anywhere from 20% - 80%.

Stimul.ai CEO Naomh McElhatton confirmed the company are currently engaged with "a number" of hospital departments throughout Ireland and UK. 

"I encourage hospitals to contact me directly, so that we can identify new pilot sites to support the resolution of the [overcrowding] crisis."

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