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Hospital overcrowding

'A national scandal': 2019 was the worst year on record for hospital overcrowding as 118,000 went without a bed

Over 1,300 of the patients were children younger than 16.

OVER 118,000 people went without beds in 2019, according to end-of-year analysis by the INMO.

The medical organisation said that this confirms 2019 was the worst-ever year for hospital overcrowding since records began – 9% higher than 2018.

Over 1,300 of the patients were children younger than 16. The worst months for overcrowding in 2019 were November (12,055), October (11,452), and September (10,641).

The worst-hit hospitals in 2019 included:

  • University Hospital Limerick - 13,941
  • Cork University Hospital – 11,066
  • University Hospital Galway – 7,993
  • South Tipperary General Hospital – 6,942
  • University Hospital Waterford – 6,313

The INMO said that understaffing and a lack of capacity as key drivers of overcrowding. There are 411 fewer inpatient beds in Ireland’s hospitals today than a decade ago, despite a larger, older population.

INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: “Things are getting worse, not better. These figures should be falling, but we’re going the wrong direction. 2019 saw thousands more patients without proper beds – often at one of the most vulnerable points in their lives.

“Overcrowding used to be a winter problem. Now it’s an all-year problem, which gets worse in winter. The most frustrating part is that we know how to solve this problem: increase staffing and bed capacity, expand community care, and get going with the Sláintecare reforms.”

Health Minister Simon Harris said this year has been a very “challenging year”. He added that it is important to look at other metrics when discussing the 118,000 figure, stating that there has been 30,000 additional people presenting to emergency departments in 2019. 

Of this number, about 5,500 people were over the age of 65, while about 9,000 additional children have presented to accident and emergency departments. 

“What’s actually happening is our health services getting busier and busier every year we’re treating more people every year,” he said, stating extra capacity is being put into the system.

Responding to the report, Sinn Féin’s Maurice Quinlivan described the figures as “truly appalling”.

He said: “The figures show a startling increase from a figure of 1,814 in 2006 when the figures were first collated to an unimaginable figure of 13,941 in 2019. This is truly appalling and shows utter contempt from the Government.

“These are not just figures they are real people, people we know, often family members and many of them elderly often lingering on trollies for hours or days.”

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