Hospital overcrowding reached record levels across the State at the start of this year with rising trolley figures outside Dublin driving the trend, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).
The total figure of 36,000 people on trolleys between January and April 2017 represents a 1 per cent increase on the previous high recorded during the same period last year, the union said.
The INMO’s Trolley/Ward Watch figures showed a total of 27,200 patients on trolleys across 25 hospitals outside Dublin between January and April of this year, almost 3,500 more than the same period last year.
However, hospitals in and around the capital fared better and the overall figure of almost 9,000 people on trolleys across eight facilities in Dublin and Naas represents a fall of around 3,000 from the previous year.
Data from April in particular will provide encouragement for authorities with overcrowding down 12 per cent nationwide compared to the same month last year.
All three of the most overcrowded hospitals in April were outside Dublin with Cork University Hospital top of the list with 658 patients on trolleys, followed by University Hospital Limerick on 649 and South Tipperary General Hospital on 493.
The issue of overcrowding will be discussed at the INMO’s three-day conference which begins in Wexford later on Wednesday.
“These latest statistics confirm that our health services continue to be too small to adequately, and safely, meet the demands being placed upon it. The shortage of beds in acute hospitals and step-down facilities remains a real problem in this ongoing crisis,” said INMO general secretary Liam Doran.
“Additional services, either in terms of acute beds, step-down beds and/or community intervention teams are dependent on there being additional nursing staff. It remains the stark reality that without nurses and midwives we cannot meet current demand let alone in the future.”
Delegates at the conference will be debating a number of motions, including a proposal for the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to commence an inquiry into the circumstances in which care is delivered in emergency departments due to concerns over the privacy and dignity of patients.
Another motion calls for access to access to social workers, physiotherapists and occupational therapists in all 26 emergency departments around the country.
An emergency department taskforce meeting between the HSE, the Minister for Health and unions is due to take place on Monday following the INMO conference.