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Over 53,000 patients went without beds in Irish hospitals in 2020, INMO says

The organisation said hospital overcrowding is “unacceptable at the best of times, but it is doubly so when dealing with a contagious virus”.

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File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Physics_joe

AT LEAST 53,325 patients went without beds in Irish hospitals in 2020, new figures from the Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation (INMO) show.

Over 30,000 of those incidents were recorded since Covid-19 was first detected in Ireland.

Admitted patients waited on trolleys and chairs, often in corridors, the INMO noted.

General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said hospital overcrowding is “unacceptable at the best of times, but it is doubly so when dealing with a contagious virus”.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, the focus was on eliminating overcrowding. We now need immediate interventions to ensure our hospitals can cope with the volume of patients safely.”

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the HSE announced it would adopt a zero-tolerance approach to trolleys. Monthly figures dropped to as low as 497 patients in April, but have been steadily increasing throughout the year to 4,353 in December.

The annual figures were roughly half what they were in 2019 (the highest year on record), yet many hospitals had more patients on trolleys this year than previous years.

The hospitals with the highest overall figures include:

  • University Hospital Limerick: 9,843 (higher than 2017)
  • Cork University Hospital: 6,503 (higher than 2016)
  • Midlands Regional Hospital, Mullingar: 2,768 (higher than 2019)
  • Sligo University Hospital: 2,530 (higher than 2017)
  • Mater University Hospital: 2,368

Oer 13,000 healthcare workers in Ireland, including almost 4,000 nurses, have been infected with Covid-19 to date.

“These are the staff we need to roll out the vaccine and to provide care. They cannot be safe in overcrowded, infectious environments,” Ní Sheaghdha said.

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“We are now effectively running two health services, catering for Covid and non-COVD cases. We wrote to the HSE yesterday seeking urgent action. They must bring private hospital capacity onstream and postpone electives,” she added.

TheJournal.ie has contacted the HSE for comment.

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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