Patient spent ‘four hours’ on ambulance as hospital overcrowded

Eight ambulances forced to wait to admit patients as ‘Status black’ declared at CUH

Cork University Hospital (CUH) emergency department was so overcrowded on Monday night and Tuesday morning that eight ambulances had to wait outside with patients on board, one for more than four hours, the Dáil has heard.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the hospital had to declare a “status black escalation” warning that it was at maximum capacity and deemed unsafe to admit further patients.

“There were 70 patients on trolleys in CUH this morning with 570 patients on trolleys across the State,” she said.

“Yesterday, in Limerick there were more patients on trolleys than in Dublin’s nine hospitals combined, according to the INMO (Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation).”


Ms McDonald said there were also reports that “during the status black escalation up to eight ambulances were lined up outside the accident and emergency at Cork University Hospital waiting to hand over patients”.

“I am told that one of those ambulances was forced to wait for more than four hours. That is the sort of situation that puts patient and staff at serious risk and it is unacceptable.”

She said a status black escalation was a declaration that a hospital was no longer safe.

“This is a very serious accident waiting to happen and it is playing out on this Government’s watch,” she said.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said 55 patients were waiting on trolleys in CUH with 431 patients on trolleys nationally compared to 296 patients on the same day last year.

Mr Coveney said the numbers waiting at CUH were “exceptionally high”.

There was a “significant capacity demand mismatch, with high rates of attendance and admission and a low rate of discharges”, he said adding that it was the highest trolley count this year at the hospital.

But there had been a full mobilisation of all resources to deal with the issue.

He acknowledged that a “serious challenge” had arisen in the hospital and “we are responding with the seriousness that is needed. We need to and are putting the extra resources and the priority systems in place to respond to that in accordance with the needs of patients there,” the Tánaiste said.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times