Hospital denies ‘hiding’ patients on trolleys for Taoiseach’s visit

INMO reports sharp drop in numbers last Thursday for visit of Leo Varadkar

There were 42 patients on trolleys on Tuesday, 58 on Wednesday, but just 26 on Thursday for Leo Varadkar’s visit.

Saolta University Health Care Group has denied that patients on trolleys in University Hospital Galway's emergency department were "hidden" for the visit of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last week.

According to figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), there were 42 patients on trolleys on Tuesday, 58 on Wednesday, but just 26 on Thursday for Mr Varadkar’s visit. The figure rose again to 36 on Friday.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly, who was at the hospital on Thursday, said it was “a miracle” that the numbers dropped for Mr Varadkar’s visit.

“I walked through the hospital on Thursday, and I noticed that it was quiet,” she told RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta. “I got calls then afterwards, to tell me that it was all a pretence, that there were patients there but that they had been hidden.


“I suspected something myself too, because there were 42 patients on trolleys on Tuesday, 58 on Wednesday, and then a miracle on Thursday only 26.”

INMO spokeswoman Anne Burke said “great efforts” were made to get patients off trolleys, but added she was “bemused” at the sudden reduction in numbers.

Responding to queries from The Irish Times, the Saolta University Health Care Group, which oversees the running of the hospital, said "full capacity protocol was in place all week".

“University Hospital Galway’s emergency department was extremely busy last week with a high number of patients attending the emergency department since Monday, April 9th,” she said.

The emergency department was “extremely busy” on Wednesday morning, but improved before Mr Varadkar’s visit.

“The situation however improved throughout the day due to increased focus on discharges as part of the hospital’s escalation plan and focused effort on Wednesday to deal with the 58 on trolleys,” she said.

“On Thursday, April 12th, there were 18 patients awaiting admission in the emergency department with seven patients accommodated on ward trolleys.

“At 8am on Friday there were 19 patients awaiting admission in the ED and 12 patients accommodated on ward trolleys.”

A spokeswoman for the Taoiseach said he had no comment to make on the matter.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter