Taoiseach apologises to patients, staff for hospital overcrowding problems

SF’s McDonald says last month worst September on record for people left on trolleys

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has apologised to patients and staff affected by critical hospital overcrowding on Tuesday across the State and forced to wait on trolleys.

But he said “the vast majority of people who were on a hospital trolley this morning will be in a proper hospital bed before the evening is out”.

Mr Varadkar was responding in the Dáil to Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald who said 610 people were on hospital trolleys on Tuesday morning.

She said 81people were on trolleys in University Hospital, Limerick 58 in University Hospital Cork and 50 on trolleys in the Mater.


“But 610 families were this morning worried sick, worried about a loved one - a parent, a grandparent, a child lying on a trolley in a corridor instead of on a hospital bed.”

She said last month “is the worst September on record in terms of hospital overcrowding”. She said 10,641 patients went without a hospital bed.

“That is 10,641 families who have had to see a loved one suffer the indignity of a hospital trolley.”

‘Encouraging reductions’

Ms McDonald also said that the hospital system did not have the capacity to deal with the numbers of patients needing beds.

Mr Varadkar told her: “I want to acknowledge that overcrowding in hospitals was indeed very severe this morning and I want to apologise to patients and staff who have been affected and also to their loved ones who deserve much better than to have to wait for a hospital bed.”

He said there were “encouraging reductions in the number of patients on trolleys year on year but there has been a deterioration since June and it has been getting steadily worse since then regrettably”.

It was partly due to the increase in the number of people attending emergency departments.

Mr Varadkar said he spoke to the Minister for Health about the issue on Tuesday morning and “action is being taken”.

The Taoiseach acknowledged a “real problem” in the fair deal scheme but this was being dealt with and “I am informed by the Minister for Health that the fair deal wait is now back down to about four weeks and that is helping us to reduce the number of delayed discharges”.

Hundreds of patients waiting for long-term care through the fair deal, have been delayed leaving hospital because of funding and processing difficulties with applications for the scheme.

Mr Varadkar added that additional funding has been freed up for transitional care to allow patients go to convalescence.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times