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'No effort being spared' says Health Minister after trolley numbers reach record high

A record high of 656 people were waiting on trolleys as 2018 began, according to the INMO.

Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Updated 7.40pm

MINISTER FOR HEALTH Simon Harris has said that “no effort or resource is being spared” to improve the current crisis in the health service after the number of people waiting on trolleys hit a record 656.

Furthermore, almost 100,000 people who were seeking admission to hospital spent time waiting on a trolley or chair before being given a bed, latest figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) show.

The INMO had said this morning that the figures indicate any improvements to hospital overcrowding is highly unlikely in 2018 unless drastic steps are taken immediately.

“We are entering a difficult few weeks and our health services are experiencing extra pressure because of the flu season,” the Minister said in a statement.

Harris said that that the HSE’s own trolley figures – which does not count the number of patients on wards waiting for a bed – show a “modest improvement” on trolley numbers on this time last year.

All of those who work in our hospitals and communities, along with the HSE and my Department will continue to work to meet the increased demand, introducing a number of exceptional measures. We will also continue to increase bed capacity and drive the reform our health service needs.

He added that the numbers are still very high and unacceptable.

Overall, 98,981 admitted patients were recorded as awaiting a hospital bed in 2017 – an increase of 6% on that of 2016 and an increase of 96% on 2007′s total figure of 50,402.

University Hospital Limerick recorded the highest annual number of 8,869. Sinn Féin TD for Limerick Maurice Quinlivan said the figures were “stark, shocking and totally unacceptable”.

“These are not just statistics, these are human beings. We know them because often they are our family, neighbours and friends. In many cases they are our grandparents, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters,” he said. 

“These figures must be a wake up call to the Minister for Health.  They represent more than a six-fold increase on the figures from 2006.”

Most overcrowded

Cork University Hospital and University Hospital Galway recorded 6,815 and 6,563 respectively.

Meanwhile, the Mater University Hospital in Dublin was the capital’s most overcrowded hospital with 5,238 patients on trolleys during 2017.

Smaller hospitals such as Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan showed drastic increases from 595 in 2016 to 2,435 in 2017. Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe recorded 1,569 patients on trolleys compared with 892 in 2016.

This morning, the INMO recorded a total of 656 patients waiting on trolleys or in wards waiting for admission for a bed in hospitals across Ireland.

Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher said the government’s “mismanagement of this issue is now being blatantly exposed”.

Every January we see a significant spike in trolley figures, but today’s stats are record breaking.  Minister Harris and his predecessors Leo Varadkar and James Reilly all pledged to tackle overcrowding, but the reality is the situation is getting worse, not better.

Winter plans

The newly appointed general secretary of the INMO Phil Ní Sheaghdha noted that for a second year running, the INMO trolley and watch ward figures heading into the final weekend of the year, recorded over 300 patients waiting on trolleys or on additional beds in wards of Ireland’s busiest hospitals.

Ní Sheaghdha has called on the HSE to explain “how the predictable increases in Emergency Department admissions remain outside the scope of hospitals to manage and control”.

“Despite investment in winter plans, smaller hospitals are now severely overcrowded which is manifestly unsafe and leads to higher cross infection and poorer outcomes for patients.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland, Ní Sheaghdha said that the INMO meets with hospital managers on a weekly basis and while some are putting in all their efforts to resolve the crisis, others are falling short.

“The stats we have published today demonstrate that despite the best efforts of some hospital managers, it still is a real problem, which shows that capacity is a problem. We need more beds and we need more acute beds,” she said.

“We’re calling this week for the national task force to meet. It has to meet because we know that January is going to be a lot worse… January looks like it’s going to be an absolute mess.”

- With reporting by Michelle Hennessy, Sean Murray

Read: Dublin pub customers tackled and held armed robber until gardaí arrived

More: Over 23,000 formal complaints were made to the HSE in 2016

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