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Harris summoned before emergency Health Committee meeting as 621 people wait on trolleys

The INMO has called on the HSE to implement five new measures.

Image: Shutterstock/Gorodenkoff

Updated Jan 8th 2020, 12:21 PM

HEALTH MINISTER SIMON Harris has been summoned to appear before an emergency meeting of the Oireachtas Health Committee next week over the hospital trolley crisis. 

With a total of 621 people currently on trolleys across Irish hospitals today, the minister has agreed to attend the meeting which will happen on the first day the Dáil returns after the Christmas break. 

Today, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said the current crisis is being exacerbated by the recruitment embargo within the HSE. 

The government continues to deny that any such recruitment freeze is happening, arguing that hospital managers are being asked to work within their budgets and not to advertise for jobs which are not budgeted for. 

Speaking ahead of next week’s meeting, Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly said the scale of the ongoing overcrowding crisis is of huge concern to patients, healthcare workers and the public.

“The public health system is currently crippled by a lack of capacity and staff, and hundreds of patients are struggling to access our hospitals daily.

“It has been clear that the planning of the Minister for Health and HSE officials has failed, and the consequences are drastic with hundreds of patients stuck on trolleys for days and surgeries being cancelled at a number of hospitals across the State,” she said. 

O’Reilly added that the situation is putting the health and well-being of patients and staff at risk, adding that the response from the minister and the HSE has not been good enough. 

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the minister noted the “small but welcome reduction in the numbers on trolleys from 537 yesterday to 412 this morning”.

“This has fallen to 308 by 2pm. This is a welcome drop in numbers but there is no room for complacency,” added the statement, which continued:

“This reflects the enormous efforts of so many health service staff in challenging circumstances and the Minister wishes to once again thank front line staff for going above and beyond for their patients.

“The system continues to be challenged with higher attendance and admission levels and we expect this to continue over the coming weeks.

“Minister Harris has been briefed by the HSE today. He has reiterated Government’s commitment to provide any additional resources the health service needs and asked the HSE to continue its focus on the pressures in our EDs.”

Actions needed

Today, the INMO has proposed what they call five “key actions” for the HSE to alleviate the crisis.

The body said that extra beds sourced from the private and voluntary sector was the reason behind the improvement on this week’s record highs.

The hospitals with the highest levels of overcrowding today include:

  • University Hospital Limerick – 63
  • University Hospital Galway – 46
  • Cork University Hospital – 43
  • South Tipperary General Hospital – 39

The INMO said that a number of actions could be taken by the HSE in the coming days which could help towards solving the crisis. 

They are: 

  • Immediately sanction frontline recruitment and restore hiring powers to hospitals and hospital groups
  • Declare a major incident at worst-hit hospitals
  • Source additional bed capacity in private, voluntary and community sectors
  • Refocus hospital capacity to dealing with emergency admissions
  • Confirm previously agreed funding for 2020 rollout of Safe Staffing Framework

INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said: “The intolerable pressure placed on frontline staff and patients continues.

“The trolley crisis is not a fact of life. There are simple, accepted solutions to fix it. We’ve made real progress in Beaumont and Drogheda hospitals, which were often the most overcrowded until recent years. This is down to planned additional recruitment and planned extra capacity. This model has to be adopted nationally.

“We need to keep moving to resolve this crisis. The INMO has proposed a five-point plan to alleviate pressure. All of these actions could be taken today or by the end of the week at the latest.” 

With reporting by Christina Finn

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