Doctors warn of ‘chaos, danger, degradation’ at Clonmel hospital

Crisis meeting with Harris due as STGH faces winter with many on trolleys in corridors

Plans for a 40-bed “patient hotel” to alleviate overcrowding at the accident & emergency unit at South Tipperary General Hospital (STGH) in Clonmel were first mooted more than a year ago.

Plans for a 40-bed “patient hotel” to alleviate overcrowding at the accident & emergency unit at South Tipperary General Hospital (STGH) in Clonmel were first mooted more than a year ago.

 

Doctors at one of the country’s most overcrowded hospitals have warned of “chaos, danger and degradation” over the coming winter in advance of a crisis meeting with Minister for Health Simon Harris on Friday afternoon.

Plans for a 40-bed “patient hotel” to alleviate overcrowding at the accident & emergency unit at South Tipperary General Hospital (STGH) in Clonmel were first mooted more than a year ago, but have yet to come to fruition, and the hospital is facing another winter with many patients on trolleys in corridors.

A meeting is being held on Friday afternoon in Tipperary town between medical staff from the hospital, local Oireachtas members and Mr Harris following the Fine Gael “think-in” in Clonmel.

“We have met with the current Minister on two occasions previously, and with the two previous ministers for health, pointing out the desperate state of our patients - and we’re hoping to instil some sense of urgency,” senior consultant physician at STGH Paud O’Regan said on Thursday.

‘High priority’

“We had been led to believe, more than a year ago, that this was regarded as an urgent matter and as a high priority to be solved, but really very little progress has been made.”

The HSE sought expressions of interest some months ago for the construction of a “modular unit” for patients but, according to Dr O’Regan, nothing has happened since early this year to progress the plan. It’s now likely to be at least another year before anything is put in place at the earliest.

The HSE did initiate a proposal to develop a vacant area off the existing day ward at STGH as accommodation for 11 trolleys, in order to remove them from hospital corridors. “It has been ready for some weeks but hasn’t opened yet because of staffing problems,” the consultant said.

“We have been running at 150 per cent medical bed occupancy over the summer, which is likely to go to 190 per cent during the winter... It will mean, for patients and staff, even if immediate action is taken, that they’ll face another winter of chaos for staff and danger and degradation for patients.”

A 40-bed “modular unit” is the minimum needed in the short term, Dr O’Regan said, while a 50-bed permanent wing is needed for STGH in the long-term.

‘Worst working conditions’

Morale is “low” at the hospital, he said, describing conditions as “the worst working conditions in the 32 counties as regards hospital work, by far”.

Mr Harris visited Clonmel last winter and acknowledged that the hospital is “bursting at the seams in terms of capacity” and “needs temporary accommodation”.

Consultants and local Oireachtas members had hoped to meet the Taoiseach during the Fine Gael think-in, but the request was referred to Mr Harris.

is regularly one of the most overcrowded hospitals in the country, according to the daily Trolleywatch figures released by the INMO.