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File photo. Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland!
Hospital

Hospitals 'hiding trolleys' on wards, says INMO

The INMO said yesterday that some hospitals are placing extra beds or trolleys on wards on a permanent basis – but Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore finds this hard to believe.

THE TÁNAISTE HAS questioned how patients on trolleys could be ‘hidden’ on hospital wards, as suggested by members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation this week.

The INMO has released its latest trolley figures, which show that there has been a reduction in the number of patients on trolleys everyday.

The organisation said that “there is no doubt” that the Minister for Health Dr James Reilly, through the Special Delivery Unit, has prioritised the need for hospitals to manage their Emergency Department situation, with emphasis on reducing the number of patients on trolleys.

However, the fact remains that 26,106 patients were left on trolleys, following admission while awaiting an in-patient bed, in the first four months of this year.

The INMO said it is also aware that in a number of hospitals the figure is changing or reducing “due to the fact that they are now permanently placing extra beds/trolleys on wards and inappropriate areas and thus compromising the care of all patients”.

The Full Capacity Protocol, ie placing extra beds/trolleys on wards, has regularly been in place in a number of hospitals.  This policy is for use in exceptional circumstances only, ie a major incident, as opposed to everyday use. The problem cannot be solved by placing extra beds on in-patient wards.  This is a tried, flawed and failed practice of the past which should never be revisited.

In the Dáil today, Eamon Gilmore said it would be “very difficult to hide trollies in a hospital”.

I don’t think that at a practical level that anyone would want to do that first of all. Second, I don’t see how it could be done.

Fianna Fail TD Billy Kelleher said this was “compromising patient safety”.

Gilmore acknowledged that more needed to be done and said: “Let’s acknowledge a success where there is a success. The number of people on trollies is down, down by 17 per cent over the last year.”

Trolley watch

The INMO’s analysis of its trolley watch statistics for January to April from 2007 – 2012 showed:

  • Nationally there was an overall reduction, in the first four months of 2012 compared with 2011, of 17 per cent;
  • The greater Dublin area showed a reduction, in 2012 compared to 2011, of 23 per cent;
  • The rest of the country showed a reduction for the same period of 13 per cent;
  • The national figure was also down, on the 2010 total for those four months, by 3 per cent;
  • The 2012 figures confirmed an overall increase compared with figures for 2007, 2008 and 2009.

There are 2,402 public beds closed around the country compared with 705 in October 2009.

A number of motions on this issue will be debated during this week’s INMO annual conference. Members said they remain “seriously concerned” regarding the health and safety of patients and are finding it increasingly difficult to practice safe care.

INMO General Secretary, Liam Doran commenting on these figures, saying:

The INMO welcomes the drop in numbers of patients on trolleys awaiting an in-patient bed.  However, much more work needs to be done to improve this situation and to ensure that patients receive appropriate care.  This Organisation is therefore calling for closed beds to be opened and the recruitment moratorium to be lifted, for frontline staff, who struggle to provide safe care and safe practice in hospitals throughout the country, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

He added they will continue to work closely with the Special Delivery Unit.

Tony O’Brien, Director of the Special Delivery Unit, spoke at the conference yesterday. The Irish Examiner reports that he denied hospitals were hiding trolleys to reduce the appearance of overcrowding.

Read: HSE recruitment moratorium ‘destructive and irrational’, say health staff>

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