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'Immense pressure': Letterkenny hospital apologises after patients left waiting in ambulances

A record 1,452 Covid-19 patients were being treated in hospitals across the country yesterday evening.

File photo
File photo
Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

LETTERKENNY UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL has apologised after ambulances were left waiting outside the hospital yesterday. 

A record 1,452 Covid-19 patients were being treated in hospitals across the country yesterday evening.

In a statement, Letterkenny University Hospital said it was an “extremely busy weekend” and that there has been “a large number of patients presenting with suspected or confirmed Covid-19, many of whom required admission to the hospital”. 

Up to seven ambulances were left waiting outside the hospital at one point yesterday, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s (INMO) industrial relations officer for the region, Neal Donohue, said.

Donohue said the INMO received a “large volume” of calls from its members at the hospital expressing concerns over the issue.

“The whole hospital is under immense pressure but the emergency department is where it’s compounded,” he said. 

Donohue said the hospital had been under “extreme pressure” for a number of weeks before Christmas and “there just hasn’t been any let up”. 

He said the INMO members at the hospital are “describing burnout at the moment”. 

“This has gone on for a long time. Vaccinations are happening at the minute and we do see that as a light at the end of the tunnel, but that’s not going to be an immediate resolve to this,” he said. 

“In terms of the staffing experiences, people have been trying to pick up extra shifts to assist the service but they’re just burnt out, they can’t continue to work under those conditions.” 

Hospital apology

In a statement, Letterkenny University Hospital as a result of “sustained level” of presentations of patients with suspected or confirmed Covid-19, “the hospital has had few beds available”. 

“[This] has resulted in delays in admission, specifically for patients going to the dedicated Covid-19 zone,” it said. 

The hospital said in response to this serious situation, clinical teams assessed patients who were delayed being admitted from the ambulance to ensure that patients were treated in clinical priority.

The hospital secured additional staff yesterday evening, which enabled it to open a further 11 beds in order to respond to the demand.

It said that while there were ambulances delayed late yesterday afternoon, over the course of the evening they have, and continued to be released.

In its statement, the hospital issued an apology to patients over the issues yesterday. It said: 

The hospital would like to apologise to patients for the distress that these delays cause and would like to acknowledge the huge effort of staff.

There were around 170 staff members out of work yesterday at Letterkenny University Hospital, according to Donohue. 

He said a large portion of that staff were nurses who are “very highly trained and skilled professionals who are needed to be there, present with the patients”. 

“The problem is, as staff are brought in, through availability, to cover any of these beds that need to be opened, again you could have a number of staff that are out either self isolating because of being a close contact with Covid or potentially getting Covid themselves,” he said. 

Extra beds

Chief executive Paul Reid has said the HSE has begun accessing the surge capacity agreed with private hospitals as the system comes under increasing pressure.

Reid said private hospitals have begun providing some non-Covid urgent care to public patients in recent days.

An agreement was reached between the HSE and private hospitals last week which gives the HSE access to additional capacity if needed.

There were 37 vacant ICU beds as well as 11 paediatric beds yesterday. 

In total there are 286 ICU beds across the country, an increase on 255 at the start of the surge and the HSE is bringing in a further 16 ICU beds between this and next month.

As noted above, a record 1,452 Covid-19 patients were being treated in hospitals across the country yesterday evening.

There were 100 additional admissions to hospitals in the past 24 hours.

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Some 125 people are being treated for the virus in ICUs with 19 admissions in the last 24 hours.

Reid predicted the number of people with Covid-19 in hospital in Ireland would reach more than 1,700 in the coming days, more than double the number it reached at its peak last year.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s This Week programme, Reid said the best support the public can give to health workers is to avoid getting sick with Covid-19.

“Our health system is under increasing strain. The best support we can all now give, is to avoid getting sick with Covid,” he said.

“This will help to get us out the other side of this.”

With reporting by Press Association

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