Number waiting on hospital trolleys 26 per cent higher than last year

More than 400 people are waiting on hospital trolleys in emergency departments

There were 414 people on trolleys in emergency departments or on wards awaiting admission to a hospital bed on Tuesday, a figure nurses decsribed as “startling” for the middle of summer.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said this represented a 26 per cent increase in the number of patients on trolleys in hospitals compared with the same day last year.

The INMO said the hospitals with the highest number of people on trolleys were: Cork University Hospital (60); University Hospital Limerick (49) and Mater Misericordiae University Hospital (35).

The HSE attributed the surge in trolley numbers to larger-than-usual numbers of people presenting at hospital emergency departments and respiratory illness linked to the warm weather.


The HSE said earlier this week the Mater Hospital in Dublin reported 277 attendances at its emergency department – the highest on record for a Monday.

The HSE also said there were more than 60 hospital beds closed for infection-control reasons while there were also a high number of delayed discharge patients who remained in hospital.

The general secretary of the INMO Phil Ni Sheaghdha said the trolley figures were very high for late July. She expressed strong concern about the level of overcrowding in emergency departments that may be experienced in the winter ahead.

Nursing vacancies

She said trolley numbers were very high in Limerick and Cork and in Limerick there were vacancies for about 70 nursing posts.

“These are genuinely startling figures to see in summertime. It is only July, and our hospitals are already way over capacity. Nurses will be looking to winter with a sense of dread. A decade ago we’d call this a national emergency, but it is the new normal in our broken health service.”

"Capacity simply has to increase. The Government must make it a priority to fill nursing vacancies urgently. That won't happen without the pay rise that nurses have earned. I worry that if pay stays low and conditions worsen, more nurses will be forced out of our health services", Ms Ni Sheaghdha said.

The HSE said, under its methodology for counting, on Tuesday morning at 8am, its 29 emergency departments across the country reported 279 patients on hospital trolleys awaiting admission to hospital.

"While some hospitals such as Limerick, Galway and Cork University Hospitals and the Mater Hospital had high numbers of patients waiting, other hospitals such as Drogheda, Cavan and Portlaoise did not have any patients awaiting admission this morning. The number of patients reported at 2pm had reduced by 26per cent to 212 with further reductions expected by 8pm on Tuesday evening."

“We regret any delays experienced by our patients. Hospitals are continuing to implement measures so that patients can transfer to wards and hospital beds as quickly as possible. These measures include the opening of additional beds (surge capacity), a greater focus on discharging patients to appropriate care as well as speedier access to diagnostic and other tests that mean patients can be discharged more promptly, and the curtailment of elective admissions as necessary.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

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