The trolley crisis is no longer a “seasonal event” but a “national crisis”, Sinn Féin has told the Dáil.
The party’s deputy leader Pearse Doherty said the crises in housing and health would “get worse every single day” as long as the current Government were in office.
Mr Doherty was speaking during Leaders’ Questions on Thursday, and pointed to figures from the INMO (Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation) which showed that almost 12,000 people, including 300 children, were on trolleys in hospitals last month.
“That figure is higher than January of this year, when we saw the worst levels of overcrowding in our hospitals since the INMO started to actually collate these figures,” Mr Doherty said.
“This level of overcrowding at the beginning of summer is unprecedented and it needs to be tackled to prevent even worse chaos this winter.
“The trolley crisis is no longer a seasonal event, it is a national crisis and it is a national scandal. Not content with making the housing crisis worse day by day, you have now done the same with the health service, and those crises are going to get worse every single day as long as this Government spend its time in office.
“We have a situation now where nurses are working in a system in which it has been normalised for over 500 people a day to be on trolleys in our hospital and behind every one of those statistics is a person, often a person waiting in vain for a hospital bed.”
The Donegal TD said in the first three months of this year, the average wait time in emergency departments for admission to a bed was almost 12 hours and was “worse” for children and those aged over 75.
Mr Doherty referenced the case of a 78-year-old woman from Co Waterford who suffers from cardiac issues, who had to wait 24 hours for a hospital bed.
“Her daughter left her at the hospital the day before and she called her mother at 3pm the following day,” he said.
“Her mother told her on the phone that she was diagnosed with heart failure and that mother, that 78-year-old woman, was still in the same chair that her daughter left her the day before.
“That is absolutely disgraceful, how our people are treated in this State under the policies of this Government. Her daughter spoke of how her mother didn’t even have access to a trolley, how she wasn’t able to get any sleep the night before, how she wasn’t able to take any rest, how she wasn’t able to take the weight off her hips or her back.”
In response, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said there was no question that in hospitals across the country, “there will be instances where people are spending longer in chairs or on trolleys than they should do”.
He said where “cases do present” hospitals had to “do everything they can” to ensure waiting times for patients are reduced to the bare minimum.
Mr O’Brien said the Government was investing recording funding in the health service, with €23.6 billion allocated in the Budget for this year.
The Dublin Fingal TD said more than 20,000 additional staff had been hired into the health service since the beginning of 2020. He said the HSE had seen the biggest staff increases over the last three years since its establishment.
Mr O’Brien also said that by the end of 2023, the HSE was due to have added 1,179 beds against a target of 1,146.