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Leo says he'll get a plan to sort out 'chronic' hospital overcrowding

Health Minister Leo Varadkar says he expects the situation in Beaumont to ease this week — but nurses want an ‘emergency’ declared.

Leo Varadkar speaking to TheJournal.ie today
Leo Varadkar speaking to TheJournal.ie today
Image: Aoife Barry/TheJournal.ie

Updated 5.53pm 

HEALTH MINISTER LEO Varadkar has said an Emergency Department Forum will be convened next week as he looks to formulate a long-term plan to solve the “chronic problem” of overcrowding in hospital emergency departments.

He was responding to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) earlier calling for the situation to be declared a ‘national emergency’ amid the ongoing crisis situation at Beaumont Hospital on Dublin’s northside.

The hospital was placed ‘off-call’ for four hours on Friday evening, and ambulances carrying emergency patients were diverted to other facilities in the area.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie today Varadkar said it was a “chronic problem” and said that only a long-term plan will resolve it, outlining what that might involve:

Source: Video TheJournal.ie/YouTube

Camera: Aoife Barry/TheJournal.ie

‘Off-call’

Earlier, the CEO of Beaumont,Liam Duffy, speaking on Morning Ireland, said the hospital may have to go ‘off-call’ again later this week.

“The health service is now faced with the most significant overcrowding situation since the INMO began counting trolleys over ten years ago,” INMO General Secretary Liam Doran said, citing ongoing problems in Limerick, Drogheda, Sligo and elsewhere.

In order to ensure patient safety, appropriate standards of care and manageable workloads for nursing staff an emergency initiative is required which requires whole government support.

Duffy said that Beaumont’s ‘escalation plan’ had been put in place, and the problem was easing.

However, “significant challenges” still remain, he said.

All beds in the hospital, including those that would normally close at weekends, have been in use over recent days. Areas that were closed for refurbishment have also been reopened.

Request to patients

To assist in reducing the pressure the hospital is asking:

  • Patients to contact their GP instead and, if possible, to avoid or delay their visit to the department
  • GPs not to send patients to Beaumont ED unless absolutely necessary
  • Encouraging those who can to access private health facilities for the treatment of minor injuries and illnesses
  • Cancelling non urgent admissions and surgery in order to free up additional beds

More than 45,000 patients attend the emergency department at Beaumont every year and the numbers to date in 2014 have increased.

Duffy said there were currently 100 patients in the hospital awaiting placements in nursing homes or homecare packages.

Doran said that was being reflected in other hospitals around the country, and that there were currently 800 patients occupying clinical beds due to the absence of appropriate continuing care, rehabilitation beds or homecare nursing.

Earlier today, Varadkar said the run into Christmas is always a very busy time in emergency departments, and added: ”Beaumont is under particular pressure but it’s not the only one.”

“I think we will see an alleviation in the next number of days. But it is a problem that exists across our health service and something that requires a longer term plan.”

- additional reporting from Hugh O’Connell 

First published 14 December, 7.55pm

Read: Beaumont Hospital only admitting ‘urgent’ emergency cases due to overcrowding

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