Beaumont asks people not to attend A&E due to trolley numbers

Nearly 560 patients are waiting on trolleys in emergency departments or wards, INMO claims

The INMO has said that there are nearly 560 patients on trolleys in emergency departments and on wards at present. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

The INMO has said that there are nearly 560 patients on trolleys in emergency departments and on wards at present. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

Beaumont Hospital in Dublin has asked people to avoid or delay attending its emergency department as the number of patients having to wait on trolleys escalates.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said on Tuesday that there were 558 patients on trolleys in emergency departments or in wards waiting for admission to a bed.

This represented a significant increase on the figures recorded on Monday, when there were 516 patients on trolleys in emergency departments and on wards awaiting admission.

The INMO said that on Tuesday there were 463 patients on trolleys in emergency units and a further 95 on trolleys on wards.

The INMO said that there were 48 patients on trolleys in the emergency department in Beaumont Hospital, 43 in the emergency department of St Vincent’s University Hospital and 32 in the emergency department in Cork University Hospital.

Beaumont Hospital said its emergency department was “experiencing an unusually high level of patients presenting combined with a higher than normal admission rate” since December 28th onwards.

It said Monday January 4th had seen the highest daily number of attendances to the hospital’s emergency department in the past 18 months, almost double the average daily attendance rate.

“In line with the age profile of the area served by the hospital where one in three residents are aged over 65 and living alone, Beaumont is also seeing a high volume of older people attending the emergency department This includes a growing number of patients presenting with respiratory and influenza symptoms.”

“To assist in reducing the pressure the hospital is:

* asking patients who may be considering coming to the emergency department to contact their GP instead and, if possible, to avoid or delay their visit

*asking GPs not to send patients to Beaumont emergency department unless absolutely necessary

* encouraging those who can to access private health facilities for the treatment of minor injuries and illnesses .”

Beaumont said it had introduced a number of measures to manage the situation including cancelling non urgent admissions and surgeries in order to free up additional beds.

The week after the Christmas break is normally a very busy period in hospital emergency departments and a spike in the numbers on trolleys is expected.

At this time last year there were more than 600 patients on trolleys in emergency departments and on wards awaiting admission to a hospital bed.

Since then the Government has invested more than €70 million in additional funding to address delayed discharges from hospitals of patients who have completed the acute phase of their treatment, as well as to relieve pressure on the Fair Deal nursing home scheme.

Both of these issues are said to contribute to the problem of high numbers of patients on trolleys.

The Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and the head of the HSE Tony O’Brien have said that there are fewer patients waiting on trolleys during the post-Christmas period compared with the same time last year.

However, the Minister said on Monday that the trolley issue is not a problem that is going to be solved quickly.

He said it would be unwise for any politician to promise to eliminate the problem of hospital patients having to wait on trolleys.

The Minister said no health system had managed to completely eliminate this problem.

“Anybody who makes such promises does not understand the true complexity of what we face in the health service,” Mr Varadkar said.

Emergency consultant at Tallaght Hospital James Gray said the new figures for people on trolleys are “an absolute disgrace”.

He told RTÉ that there had been little change from the situation during the same period last year.