364 patients on trolleys as crisis eases

Galway nurses to work to rule over hospital overcrowding after unanimous vote

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar warned of a possible upsurge in flu cases. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar warned of a possible upsurge in flu cases. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Overcrowding in hospital emergency departments has eased further, with 364 people on trolleys today, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.

Beaumont Hospital in Dublin has the highest number of patients waiting for admission, at 34, followed by Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, where 30 patients are on trolleys.

Trolley numbers normally peak in the early part of the week but today’s number represents a fall from the 401 recorded last Friday. A peak of 601 patients on trolleys was recorded last Tuesday.

INMO members at Galway University Hospital emergency department are to engage in a work to rule in from February 3rd after voting unanimously in favour of industrial action.

The action, which is being taken because of chronic overcrowding in the unit, means nurses will not perform administrative, clerical or non-clinical tasks and will engage only in providing clinical care to patients.

Graphic: trolley waits

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has warned a possible surge in flu cases and the impending changeover of junior hospital posts may put further pressure on hospital emergency departments. While significant progress had been made in tackling overcrowding in hospital emergency departments (EDs), “we’re not out of the woods yet,” he said.

The National Association of General Practitioners has called for GPs to be included on the Department of Health’s emergency department taskforce to tackle the problem.

The association said it was deeply disappointed to learn that general practice was not represented on the taskforce, given its “crucial” role in the long-term planning needed to resolve the issue.

The reporting rate for flu-like illnesses doubled in the first week of the year compared to the end of 2014, according to the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre. The rate remains low overall for all age groups, with three flu-related hospitalisations and one death reported.

Rates in Europe are also low, but the US has seen a busy flu season, and vaccine-resistant strains are stronger than usual.

Mr Varadkar noted that the twice-yearly rotation of junior doctor posts takes place next week “and that’s always a difficult time in the health service”.

He said he had only recently become aware that a small number of consultants were refusing to accept referrals from outside their “catchment areas”. This was unacceptable, the Minister said, as there are no catchment areas in the Irish health system. New patients must be accepted even where there are very long waiting lists.