‘The trolleys aren’t too bad. . . The crowd waiting is unreal’

Patients and understanding as 30 people wait even for trolleys in two Cork hospitals

According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, 38 patients were on trolleys at Cork University Hospital on Tuesday.  Photograph: Patrick Hogan/Provision

According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, 38 patients were on trolleys at Cork University Hospital on Tuesday. Photograph: Patrick Hogan/Provision


An average of 30 people were in the pre-trolley emergency department waiting areas at both Cork University Hospital (CUH) and the city’s Mercy University Hospital (MUH) on Tuesday, as a record 656 patients waited for a hospital bed on trolleys nationally.

At the MUH, a 64-year-old man who presented on New Year’s Eve at 11.30pm with severe stomach pains was still on a trolley at lunchtime on Tuesday.

Speaking to The Irish Times as he waited for a camera-based internal examination, he insisted the staff were working to the best of their abilities.

“I waited for four or five hours before I was even seen. Of course there was other people waiting as well. The trolleys aren’t too bad. The first night was very uncomfortable because I didn’t have a curtain around me. The crowd waiting [at any given time] is unreal.

“What you are up against is competing with the ambulances that come in first. You have the serious cases and they [the staff] are all around them. But I would prefer to be here than out in the [Mercy] University Hospital. That’s a mad house. The nurses and doctors are doing their best.”

Meanwhile, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), 38 patients were on trolleys at CUH on Tuesday, with the cramped emergency department waiting area packed with people who were longing for a trolley, much less the ultimate end goal of a bed.

Frail and sick

A pensioner who was in the CUH waiting area with his 84-year-old brother-in-law said that a long wait was very much a given no matter how frail or sick the patient.

“He is very ill and in a wheelchair. It looks like a urinary infection. He lives on his own and it is is very tough. First he had to go to his own doctor and then he was sent here so even that takes it out of him.

“People are very good when you get in but the whole thing is a nightmare. Everyone is looking to get treated quickly and then the poor staff are having to decide who is sicker than who. We could be hours. But to be honest that is the pattern and you accept that.”

A man in his 30s who was on crutches said he knew it was the “worst time of year” to go to the emergency department.

“I knew coming in that I was in trouble and was going to have a long wait. I am only here 45 minutes so far. The people upstairs are not giving the money to the nurses and doctors downstairs. I knew it would be bad. After New Year’s Day and Christmas its always like this. To be honest a trolley sounds good. Even a proper chair sounds good. I have some sort of stomach complaint so I suppose I shouldn’t complain. Could be worse.”

The HSE has now advised the public that visiting restrictions are in operation at MUH following a surge in the number of patients with flu-like symptoms presenting to the hospital’s emergency department.

Confirmed cases

A significant number of patients have required admission bringing the number of confirmed cases of influenza at the hospital to 11.

MUH clinical director Dr Kieran O’Connor said: “In this context, visiting is being restricted to the hospital in the interest of patient safety. The hospital is seeking the public’s co-operation with the restrictions, but will deal with exceptional cases on an individual basis.

“MUH wishes to reassure people that while the hospital is very busy at present, patients are being seen, treated and cared for appropriately.”

Dr O’Connor said people with flu-like symptoms are advised to visit or telephone their GPs rather than present at the hospital’s emergency department.

He stressed: “It is also not too late to receive the flu vaccine if one has not already done so.”

“Influenza is predictable, it happens every year, generally between October and April. It’s not too late for people to get the flu vaccine, certainly those who are more at risk from the adverse affects of influenza such as those older than 65, those that are compromised, chronic respiratory or heart or liver or kidney ailments. There is a perception that you will get the flu from the vaccine, which is not accurate. People who are vulnerable should get the vaccine,” said Dr O’Connor.