Conditions inside a city hospital’s emergency department (ED) have been described as “overcrowded, chaotic and dangerous”.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) have called for urgent action to address the ED situation at the Mercy University Hospital (MUH) in Cork.
Some 35 patients spent Tuesday night in the ED because there were no beds available for them. Corridor space in the ED has been screened off for patient examinations.
INMO industrial relations officer Liam Conway said some patients with Covid-19 have been kept temporarily in the ED, in isolation, but adding to the risk and the already heavy workload of frontline medical staff.
“This is a hazard in the workplace,” Mr Conway said.
He said the Covid crisis had masked, to a certain extent, the problems facing all EDs — demand outstripping the supply of beds in the system.
The system is under pressure again as people begin to present at hospital EDs with the “regular winter ailments”, combined with trauma cases.
On Tuesday, MUH issued its third public appeal since the start of the year asking people needing less urgent treatment to use other care services.
In a statement, the South/South West Hospital Group said the high demand on the ED is due to an increase in the attendances of acutely ill patients, in addition to caring for frail older persons with complex needs coupled with the challenge of managing Covid-19 presentations.
“The ED remains open 24/7 however, it is regrettable that patients are experiencing delays,” it said.
“The increasing number of Covid-19 positive patients admitted to the hospital along with staffing challenges is also putting significant pressure on services.
“The hospital has fully implemented its escalation plan to deal with the high number of attendees at the ED and the resulting demand for inpatient beds.
“Additional beds have been opened for both Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients and the hospital is prioritising patients requiring urgent time-sensitive care.”
But Mr Conway said the union has issues with the implementation of the escalation policy, that there are inadequate solutions to ease overcrowding, and that there is a serious problem in terms of patient flow.
He said there is an urgent need for more beds in the community, there is an urgent need for senior clinicians to be more widely available to maximise patient discharge rates, and more diagnostics need to be made available.
The INMO is due to meet with hospital management and the SSWHG next week to discuss the issues.