Sections of hospitals ‘shut down’ due to overcrowding
Hospitals remain under intense strain as emergency department crisis continues
University Hospital Limerick again had the highest number of patients on trolleys on Wednesday, with 63 waiting for beds, followed by 46 patients in University Hospital Galway, and 43 in Cork University Hospital
Large sections of hospitals have effectively shut down, and some emergency departments can no longer accommodate trolleys as the overcrowding crisis continues, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has said.
There were 621 patients waiting for beds in hospital emergency departments on Wednesday morning, according to figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).
The figures represent a drop on the 760 patients who had been waiting on trolleys on Monday and Tuesday, the highest figure ever recorded by the INMO.
Dr Donal O’Hanlon, president of the IHCA, said patient safety was “increasingly being compromised” due to the emergency department crisis.
The health system traditionally sees intense pressure on services at the start of the year during the winter flu season.
Health officials have directed that elective surgeries be cancelled, and Minister for Health Simon Harris has promised extra hospital beds in an attempt to ease the strain on emergency departments.
However, Dr O’Hanlon said “huge swathes of our acute public hospital services are effectively now shut down” as “essential, time-critical surgery is being cancelled”.
“The Government’s proposed drip-feed approach of opening a few hundred acute hospital beds per year is clearly insufficient to ease the severe overcrowding being experienced year after year.”
University Hospital Limerick again had the highest number of patients on trolleys on Wednesday, with 63 waiting for beds, followed by 46 patients in University Hospital Galway, and 43 in Cork University Hospital.
Phil Ní Sheaghdha, INMO general secretary, said the trolley crisis was placing “intolerable pressure” on hospital staff and patients. The nursing union was calling for an “immediate end to the recruitment freeze which is starving the health service of staff”, she said.
Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI), an organisation representing private and voluntary nursing homes, said there was an estimated 2,000 beds available in the sector left empty – in some cases due to hospitals delays in discharging patients.
There were 611 patients fit to be discharged or transferred from hospitals last week still in beds due to delays, according to Health Service Executive figures. The number of “delayed discharge” patients had increased from 537 in the last week of December.
Tadhg Daly, NHI chief executive, said there was a “huge level of frustration” within the nursing home sector over the delays in discharging patients due to difficulties “accessing funding support or bureaucracy within the hospital”.
He said in recent days the nursing home body received requests from local HSE officials about available beds for patients due to be discharged from two “severely overcrowded hospitals”.
“Over 20 beds from 10 nursing homes surrounding the hospitals were identified within a matter of hours, but only one bed has since been utilised. These hospitals remain severely overcrowded.
“While discharges occur every day to nursing homes, the urgency and focus required during this national emergency is not evident,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the HSE said there was a “practical time lag” between a patient being approved to be discharged and the time they left the hospital.
The spokeswoman said this delay could be “prolonged” due to a lack of available homecare support packages – if work had to be done on a patient’s home before they returned, or while a patient considered applying for the State’s Fair Deal scheme, which provides financial assistance towards nursing home costs.