Nurses call for beds to reopen as numbers on trolleys rise

8% increase in hospital overcrowding in July compared with July 2013

The number of patients on trolleys last month is 12% up on July 2012, but 8% down on July 2011. The figures show a 57% increase between July 2007 and July 2014. Photograph:  Frank Miller/The Irish Times

The number of patients on trolleys last month is 12% up on July 2012, but 8% down on July 2011. The figures show a 57% increase between July 2007 and July 2014. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Fri, Aug 8, 2014, 01:05

Nurse representatives have called for the reopening of closed hospital beds to deal with a sharp increase in emergency department overcrowding last month. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation says it will be asking Leo Varadkar to respond to a resurgence of hospital overcrowding when it meets the new Minister for Health shortly.

Figures published by the union today show an 8 per cent increase in hospital overcrowding in July compared to July 2013. The INMO says the figures show many wards, in addition to emergency departments, are now regularly overcrowded.

Five hospital emergency departments in particular suffered big increases in the number of patients on trolleys over the period. At Sligo Regional Hospital, the number on trolleys grew from 45 to 129, a rise of 187 per cent. Dublin’s Mater hospital and St James’s Hospital saw trolley numbers grow by 154 per cent, while there was a doubling of numbers at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. At University Hospital Limerick, trolley numbers increased by 75 per cent.

Despite the bad figures in some hospitals, many facilities managed to reduce trolley numbers significantly during the year; these included Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, Wexford General Hospital and University Hospital Waterford.

According to the INMO, 5,535 patients found themselves either on a trolley in an emergency department or placed on an additional bed or trolley in an inpatient ward last month. This suggests the health service was facing increasing demand with greatly reduced capacity; the union says 2,000 beds are closed for funding reasons.

The INMO says that with the winter approaching, the Health Service Executive needs to allocate additional funding so closed beds can be opened and staff recruited, regardless of its budgetary situation.

“The significant increases recorded in July represent a major challenge for the health service which it cannot ignore,” according to INMO general secretary Liam Doran. “This level of overcrowding is totally unacceptable, leaves patients without dignity and privacy and causes excessive workloads on already overstretched frontline staff.”

The number of patients on trolleys last month is 12 per cent up on July 2012, but 8 per cent down on July 2011. The figures show a 57 per cent increase between July 2007 and July 2014.