Nurses’ union calls for action as trolley count hits two year high

Increase comes as 3,780 new PCR-confirmed cases of COVID-19 are confirmed

Nurses have called for the convening of the emergency department taskforce as the number of patients on trolleys reached a two-year high.

There were 603 patients waiting for a bed in Irish hospitals on Tuesday morning, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, the highest number since February 4th, 2020.

The news came as the Health Protection Surveillance Centre said it had been notified of 3,780 PCR-confirmed new cases of COVID-19.

In addition, on Monday, 5,585 people registered a positive antigen test through the HSE portal.


As of Tuesday at 8am, 646 COVID-19 patients were hospitalised, of whom 72 were in ICU.

The INMO called for urgent action on the overcrowding issue, including the implementation of emergency measures, saying trolley figures were “out of control”.

“The number of patients without a bed in our hospitals today is simply unacceptable and should not be tolerated,” said INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha. “The fact that we have over six hundred patients on trolleys while COVID is still a very real feature in our hospitals is inexcusable.”

University Hospital Limerick had the worst overcrowding, with 71 patients waiting for admission, according to the INMO's daily TrolleyWatch count. But there were also high numbers of trolley patients at Cork University Hospital (58), University Hospital Galway (46), Letterkenny University Hospital (44), St.Luke's Kilkenny (44), Sligo University Hospital (43), St. Vincent's University Hospital (37) and Portiuncula Hospital (24).

The increase is being driven by rising attendances at emergency departments, including in recent days a fresh rise in admissions of patients with Covid-19. There has also been an increase in the number of well patients who cannot be discharged from hospital because suitable stepdown or home care is not available.

The 646 Covid-19 patients in hospital on Tuesday was up three on the previous day and 65 on last Saturday. The increase is not unexpected, as it follows at a lag the Government’s decision to re-open society on January 21st.

The 72 Covid-19 patients in ICU was down four on the previous day but up nine on last Thursday.

“We cannot allow the health service to revert to form and allow pre-Covid levels of overcrowding to become the norm once again in our hospitals, Ms Ní Sheaghdha said.

“Patients and nursing staff deserve better. If non-emergency services need to be curtailed in order to allow the HSE and hospital groups to get a handle on out of control trolley figures then that must be done.”

“It is not acceptable to our members to allow overcrowding become an out of control problem once again.”

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times