Hospitals on red alert over trolley patients
Overcrowding in hospital emergency departments hit a seven-month high yesterday when 340 patients were on trolleys around the country.
Five hospitals were on red alert after trolley numbers exceeded the benchmark figure linked to maximums recorded in 2010/2011, while a similar number were coded amber.
The trend, if it continues, could pose a headache for Minister for Health James Reilly, who lists a 20 per cent reduction in trolley waits since 2011 as one of his main achievements. His officials insisted there was no reason for concern and no reason for families to fear that relatives might have treatment delayed in the run-up to Christmas.
No single cause is being blamed for the spike in admissions but the onset of winter and the health challenges it poses for vulnerable patients is seen as a culprit. The winter vomiting bug, which has led to visiting restrictions in many hospitals over the past fortnight, has also caused an increase in admissions.
Hospitals tend to be busier in the week before Christmas as departments attempt to clear their lists of appointments and procedures before the holiday season begins.
A spokeswoman for the Health Service Executive said that although numbers had gone up, there was no particular cause for concern. “Winter tends to afflict people with chronic diseases,” she said.
Among the hospitals on red alert were Connolly Hospital, which had 20 patients on trolleys yesterday morning, within five of the accepted maximum. Mercy Hospital in Cork had 21 on trolleys, three more than the maximum. Tipperary Hospital recorded 15 trolleys occupied, compared to a maximum of 12. Sligo General Hospital recorded 20 on trolleys, its maximum level.
The most patients on trolleys recorded by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation was at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, where there were 28 .
A spokesman said admissions were up 20 per cent and elective surgery was being “pushed through”. “But we don’t think there’s any particular reason for the increase. It’s just the time of year.”
The last time patient-on-trolley numbers were as high as yesterday was spring. A peak of 443 patients on trolleys was recorded on February 28th. Numbers have fallen 20 per cent since the cold winter of 2011. Overall, numbers for the first eight months were up 9 per cent this year compared to 2009.