Nearly 650 people on trolleys waiting for hospital beds, says INMO

Daily trolley numbers fall slightly on near-record levels reported on Tuesday

There were nearly 650 patients deemed to require admission to hospital waiting on trolleys in emergency departments or on wards for a bed on Wednesday, nurses have said.

This represented a slight decrease on the near-record number of patients who were queuing for a hospital bed on Tuesday.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said on Wednesday that there were 649 admitted patients waiting for beds across the country.

On Tuesday, the INMO said there had been 679 patients waiting for beds – a figure the nurses’ union said was “obscene”.


The new overcrowding pressures in hospitals led to sharp exchanges in the Dáil on Wednesday between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

‘Irritating and annoying’

The Taoiseach told the Dáil that the HSE’s plan for dealing with the additional pressures on hospitals this winter would be published next week.

Mr Varadkar said the contents of the plan was known, including funding for the Fair Deal nursing home scheme and home care.

Mr Martin accused the Taoiseach of being “very irritating and annoying” in his responses on the moratorium after Mr Varadkar insisted that there was no recruitment embargo.

The Fianna Fáil leader said people had come to him who had been on the top of the panel for positions in the HSE last February and had given up private sector jobs in the expectation that they were getting a job but had then not been appointed.

But the Taoiseach in turn said Mr Martin’s “self-righteousness knows no bounds” and told him to “get off your high horse when it comes to this one” because when the Fianna Fáil leader was minister for health he had criticised Tallaght hospital for not ordering more trolleys when they were treating people in the hospital car park.

Insisting that there is no recruitment embargo Mr Varadkar said “what is the case is that HSE managers can’t hire staff that they don’t have money to pay for”.

There had been a recruitment problem in recent years of HSE management "recruiting when they didn't have money for it". He said that it was not allowed in education or the public service or in An Garda Síochána.

During leaders’ questions in the Dáil Mr Martin said there were some “simply appalling stories” from people waiting on trolleys and the situation should not be tolerated by the Government

He added that there was “real anger” among the public about the overcrowding and that an estimated 350 to 400 excess deaths were occurring each year because of the conditions.

“There is a real disconnect between what you are saying about numbers and so many nurses and doctors and the reality on the ground of what people are experiencing.”

Reversing cuts

Mr Varadkar said he was very much aware of the overcrowding but expected a reduction in overcrowding to continue. “We are adding more beds to our hospital system” and have done since 2014, reversing cuts by previously Fianna Fáil-led governments.

he said the budget for the Fair Deal scheme would be €1 billion next year and they were investing in community care and working with GPs to ensure fewer people went into hospital in the first place.

Warning Mr Martin to “get off your high horse”, he said Mr Martin was a member of the government that reduced the number of hospital beds.

Mr Varadkar said hospital overcrowding had been a problem for decades and was a serious issue in Northern Ireland as well.

But the Government was increasing bed capacity and staff.

The INMO said that on Wednesday the hospitals worst affected by overcrowding were Cork University Hospital, where 65 patients were waiting for a bed, and University Hospital Limerick, where 57 were queuing for a bed.

The INMO said there were 48 patients waiting for a bed at Letterkenny University Hospital.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times