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Dublin: 20 °C Saturday 20 April, 2019
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'People are waiting over 15 hours': Hospitals buckle as government looks for quick fix

The demand for hospital services has peaked because of winter related illnesses and a lack of hospital beds.

[My husband] has a condition and it’s got much worse, so we rang yesterday, were told to go to A&E, so we came this morning. It’s packed, there are people everywhere, it’s just unreal, there’s no room to walk around. It’s just so bad. It’s not the staff – the staff are great.
I think the problem is, there’s a flu epidemic, doctors won’t take responsibility and are sending people to A&E, and it’s putting pressure on the system. Same thing happened last year – it’s not any worse this year, it’s just not improved.
In the Emergency Department there’s trolleys everywhere – all along the walls and corridors. I’ve overheard staff saying a number of times amongst each other, ‘We’ve over 100 patients – how are we going to get through them?’ There’s people waiting over 15 hours. It’s just jam-packed.

These are the views of some people at St Vincent’s Hospital’s Accident and Emergency (A&E) as given to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland yesterday.

The government are searching for solutions to the hospital crisis, which is under pressure at the best of times, but is buckling because of a surge in winter-related illnesses.

The latest figures from the trolley watch report show that today, there are 578 people on trolleys and wards across hospitals nationwide – a significant drop from yesterday’s figure of 602 (both these figures exclude St Vincent’s Hospital’s ward figures).

Yesterday, Health Minister Simon Harris described the situation in Irish hospitals this week as “a perfect storm”, while also saying that the current crisis couldn’t have been predicted – a remark which has drawn criticism from political rivals and those working in the healthcare system.

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on health Billy Kelleher said that a review of beds needed in Irish hospitals had to be an independent review – because the ‘HSE couldn’t be trusted to review the system accurately’.

Empty hospital beds in a corridor. Photo Photocall Source: Photocall Ireland

This morning Damien McCallion, HSE Director for Emergency Management told Morning Ireland that they have been working with the hospitals and ambulances to improve conditions.

He said there has been a fall in the number of people on trolleys in Limerick hospital because of coordination with the HSE, but also admitted that they weren’t meeting targets for patient admissions.

The winter initiative had a number of levels including additional capacity at hospitals, and community intervention teams or ‘hospitals at home’.

McCallion said that the plan wasn’t effective, but that the situation would be a lot worse if they hadn’t prepared before Christmas.

He added that other measures are clearly needed, and that there are plans to open new beds at Tullamore, an A&E unit in Limerick and a support unit at Portlaoise, but that they were long-term solutions.

Ambulances stuck for hours

8/1/2015 Beaumont Hospitals Source: RollingNews.ie

“Two days ago in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, six ambulances were available,” Siptu representative Paul Bell this morning. ”Five of those ambulances were stationary on hospital grounds, and that’s just one example.”

Patients who are brought to hospitals are waiting between one and three hours before they’re transferred to hospitals across the country – this compares to a target transfer time of 20 minutes or less.

It’s important to note that the majority of patients travelling by ambulance don’t have the flu – they are suffering from a heart attack or a stroke and need urgent hospital care. But it’s those who travel to the A&E department with the flu that create the additional demand on the healthcare system.

Bell said that some patients were waiting up to six hours to be transferred and that this meant ambulances were stuck on hospital grounds and unable to respond to calls.

We’re seeing a huge amount of ambulance vehicles being held on hospital grounds, not being available for calls, not being available to respond within the recommended times.

He also said that this is causing the public concern, as they think there aren’t enough ambulances, when in fact the ambulances are “getting caught in the accident and emergency department”.

“Once there’s no space, that’s the position you’re put in.”

2/3/2016. Nurses Protests Health Service Crisis Source: Sam Boal

The hospitals with the least space and the most chronic issues are Limerick, Letterkenny, Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda, Cork University Hospital Waterford, and the Mercy, according to Bell.

Each winter period, there is a surge in demand for A&E services and hospitals in general because of the winter flu and vomiting bug, and the great risk that poses for older people in particular.

This year has seen a record high number of over 600 people on trolleys or waiting for beds in hospitals for two days in a row –  which follows a growing trend in hospital demand.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Six One News last night, A&E consultant at Tallaght Hospital Dr James Gray outlined problems around isolation requirements for some patients and said what was happening is “far from first world medicine”.

Read: Paramedics ‘disturbed’ over delays bringing patients to Emergency Departments

Read: Patients describe nurses ‘red in the face’ from work and guilt of seeing elderly on trolleys

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