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Tuesday 5 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
SHUTTERSTOCK/SAMRITH NA LUMPOON File photo of hospital bed

Number of patients waiting for beds in Irish hospitals falls again, INMO figures show

The head of the Saolta Hospital Group has warned of ‘a difficult month ahead’ for hospital emergency departments.

LAST UPDATE | Jan 5th 2023, 1:33 PM

THE IRISH MEDICAL Organisation (IMO) has criticised Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly’s remarks that the HSE will call on senior medical staff to work at weekends for the next few weeks to help alleviate hospital overcrowding.

Donnelly said yesterday that overcrowding may get worse and that senior decision makers were needed at hospitals.

He added that the HSE would be ”relying on their goodwill,” as these staff are not obliged to work weekends on their current contracts.

“Consultants are working far in excess of ‘normal’ working hours, providing an on call service 24/7 & working weekend shifts,” the IMO said.

“The problem is not the commitment of our medical workforce. The problems are lack of capacity, lack of beds and the chronic shortage in consultant numbers.”

New figures from the INMO today showed that the number of patients waiting for beds in Irish hospitals fell for the second day in a row.

The union said this morning that 639 admitted patients were waiting for beds this morning, with 473 patients waiting in emergency departments and a further 166 on wards elsewhere in hospitals.

It is a fall from the 931 patients who were without beds in Irish hospitals on Tuesday.

This is the highest number of patients that have been without a hospital bed since the trade union began counting trolleys in 2006. 

Yesterday, 767 patients were on trolleys in emergency departments and 164 are on trolleys elsewhere in hospitals – the second-highest number on record.

In a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday Donnelly told government colleagues that up to the week of Christmas, 2,331 laboratory confirmed cases of flu were identified in hospitals, compared with around 1,000 cases in the same period in 2019.

Of these, 637 were hospitalised compared to 350 in 2019.

The minister added that there had been a 14% increase in the number of people over 75 attending Emergency Departments when compared to 2019.

Chief executive of the Saolta Hospital Group, which comprises seven hospitals in the north-west, Tony Canavan, appeared on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today.

“We’re looking at a difficult month ahead, managing day to day to try and to get the balance between patients being discharged from hospitals and patients requiring admission,”  he said.

“In Galway this morning we had 31 patients on trolleys in the emergency department alone. We also had a further purchase six patients in other locations around the hospital awaiting admission to a ward.”

“I think what we’ll see is the numbers of patients for admission will increase as the day goes on,” Canavan added.

He said that the use of community healthcare settings was helping to ease overcrowding and that Saolta had also been working with a provide hospital to take patients from its hospitals in Galway.

“We’ve got lots of patients in hospital today that could get appropriate care for for respiratory conditions or for cardiology conditions or diabetes, and will get appropriate care in the community.”

Canavan added that 150 of Saolta’s 12,000 staff were currently on Covid-19 related leave and that significant numbers of staff were on sick leave with the flu.

“Outpatient appointments generally across all of our hospitals are continuing as planned and scheduled, however elective surgeries have been curtailed significantly since the start of this week.”

In a statement this week the IMO blamed “inhumane conditions for patients and staff” in healthcare settings on government inaction.

“The core problem is capacity, in the past decade successive Governments have failed to increase capacity to meet the needs of a growing population,” the organisation stated earlier this week.

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