Number of patients on hospital trolleys hits new high of 714

‘I have heard of a 64-year-old man spending 4½ days on a trolley in Tallaght hospital’

There are 714 patients on trolleys or on wards awaiting admission to a hospital bed on Monday – the highest number ever recorded.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said there were 80 patients deemed to require admission by doctors waiting for a bed at University Hospital Limerick.

The emergency department taskforce, comprising the HSE and health sector unions, is meeting on Monday to consider the recent surge in overcrowding in hospital emergency departments

The INMO figures also show that there were 45 patients on trolleys or on wards at University Hospital Galway, 43 at Cork University Hospital and 40 at Tallaght Hospital.


Nurses said there were 15 children waiting on trolleys for admission to a bed, seven at Temple Street Hospital and eight at Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin.

Under the HSE’s method of calculation, there were 534 patients on trolleys on Monday. However, this system of calculation does not include patients who have been moved from emergency departments to wards while waiting for a hospital bed.

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said the HSE should put in place an immediate directive to hospitals to cease all elective or non-urgent admissions. She said the INMO had sought such a move on two occasions last week.

The nurses’ trade union is also seeking a declaration that the country’s hospitals were now “in complete crisis”.

It said that on every day last week the trolley numbers exceeded 600, creating a record weekly total of 3,112.

Ms Ní Sheaghdha said the conditions under which patients were being cared for were just “unsafe”.

She said hospitals were just “way too overcrowded, emergency departments and wards”.

The HSE was just looking for excuses, she continued; it had first attributed the overcrowding surge to the flu season and later then to the recent severe weather.

Meanwhile an Irish Medical Organisation spokesman said the current trolley situation is the result of the Government failing to properly fund the health system and it was entirely predictable but unfortunately there seemed to be plan to immediately resolve the situation. “Doctors are at the end of their tether with this ongoing crisis and it looks like there is simply no end in sight. Government can no longer blame the flu or other seasonal events, what we are seeing now is what has become normal in our Emergency Departments and it is simply not acceptable,” he said.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher described the latest figures as “absolutely deplorable”.

“Last week was the worst week ever experienced for emergency department overcrowding. Today we are seeing the worst day ever. It’s truly shocking.”, he said.

“Not only are the figures themselves completely unacceptable, but the length of time that patients are being kept on trolleys is extremely worrying.

“I have heard reports of a 64-year-old man having spent 109 hours on a trolley in Tallaght hospital; that’s over 4½ days. This is surely some breach of human rights?”

Mr Kelleher said the Minister for Health and the HSE had “completely failed people this winter”.

“It is now the middle of March and the situation is actually getting worse.”

“It is critical that the capacity review, published earlier this year, is acted on as a matter of urgency,” Mr Kelleher said.

“A population that is getting progressively older means that these problems are not likely to go away soon and the Minister must act without delay”.

Labour spokesman on Health, Alan Kelly said that he was alarmed by Ms Ní Sheaghdha’s warning that conditions in public hospitals were now unsafe as a result of overcrowding.

“With the advice to patients last week not to travel to hospitals for non-essential treatment due to the weather conditions from Storm Emma, it was entirely inevitable that there would be a backlog of patients seeking treatment this week, as well as the usual numbers visiting Emergency Departments.

“With 714 people waiting on trolleys in hospitals around the country as we speak, questions now have to be asked about the level of planning for increased volumes post-storm,” said Mr Kelly adding that the long awaited Bed Capacity Review published in January acknowledge the shortage of beds.

The cross-party Sláintecare report published last May clearly stated that addressing ED overcrowding required a system wide response, including the need to enhance primary and social care services to provide patient centred care, which would reduce the over-reliance on public hospitals, he said.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

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

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times