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Mater restricts visits due to high levels of respiratory infections as 'record' overcrowding hits hospitals

It’s the joint-highest number of patients without a bed that the organisation has ever recorded.

LAST UPDATE | 19 Dec 2022

THE MATER HOSPITAL has asked the public to avoid going to their emergency department where possible as staff are under “extreme pressure” on the day that a record number of patients waited on hospital beds across the country, according to INMO. 

Management at the Mater have also temporarily restricted visitations to avoid exposing patients to illnesses due to the  large number of patients in the hospital with respiratory infections such as COVID-19 and influenza. 

While visitations are restricted, daily visits from one designated support partner or family member will be permitted for patients undergoing end-of-life care, those who are critically ill, vulnerable adults and those who require visitation due to mental health conditions. 

They are asking those presenting at their ED with non-urgent conditions, who are then encountering lengthy waits, to seek assistance from other parts of the health service such as minor injury units or their GP. 

Some 750 are in Irish hospitals without a bed today, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) – the joint-highest number ever recorded by the representative group.

The highest number of patients on trolleys ever recorded by the INMO was 760 on 6 January 2020.

INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said that that number was “unacceptably high” but “entirely predictable”.

She said:

This level of overcrowding is a danger to patients and staff alike

“The HSE, Government and each individual hospital group must take urgent action today and pull every lever available to them to ease the pressure in our hospitals.”

The INMO has this morning urged the worst-impacted hospitals to enact their emergency protocols.

“The INMO has been calling on the HSE and Government to take extraordinary measures, including the complete use of private hospitals and curtailment of non-urgent elective care since the summer,” Ní Sheaghdha said. “It is not too late to bring private hospitals on the pitch. We cannot accept this level of unsafety for patients and staff.”

“Today’s record overcrowding was entirely predictable. The INMO has been warning this was going to happen. Medics have been doing the same.

Warnings from those who are working on the frontline should not fall on deaf ears.

“Behind these figures,” Ní Sheaghdha continued, “are patients who are being stripped of their dignity and privacy while being deemed sick enough to be admitted to hospital.

“We know that more often than not our members are working in conditions that are unsafely staffed, meaning that providing safe care in an overcrowded environment is impossible.

“It is clear that our public health service cannot cope with this level of overcrowding. Serious and immediate intervention is needed today from the new Taoiseach and the Minister for Health.”

In a statement today, the HSE said the health service is experiencing a “very challenging winter”, and that its emergency departments are seeing high levels of daily presentations and congestion.

“This is in the context of a growing and ageing population which means that many patients are presenting with more complex health issues and require longer stays,” a spokesperson said.

The service also urged the public to ensure that they are up-to-date with Covid booster and flu vaccinations, adding that hospital admissions can potentially be avoided by the early use of anti-viral treatments where appropriate.

Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson David Cullinane said: “Emergency department dysfunction such as this is a symptom of everything going wrong at the same time in a health service which does not have enough capacity.

“The root problem is in the speed of decision making in investment and reform, and a failure to retain, as well as train, enough healthcare workers,” he said.

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