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Overcrowding making conditions "almost unbearable" in Galway hospital - INMO

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation says a bed capacity problem means an urgent need to re-open closed benches.

THE IRISH NURSES and Midwives Organisation has called on the minister for health, Dr James Reilly, to intervene in a bed shortage at University Hospital Galway.

The association says the current shortage of beds has come so urgent that conditions at the hospital are “almost unbearable for patients and staff alike.”

There are currently 52 patients on trolleys awaiting an inpatient bed, the association says, including 34 in the hospital’s emergency department.

The hospital activated the ‘full capacity protocol’ – where patients awaiting beds are housed on a case-by-case basis in individual wards – two days ago, but still has a major overcrowding problem, the INMO added.

The association said the bed capacity problem was being further exacerbated by the delay in transferring patients into long-term facilities.

There are 42 patients in UHG currently fit for discharge, it says, who no longer need acute care but who are awaiting a transfer into long-term facilities.

The hospital has 25 closed beds at present, while 91 beds are closed in the Merlin Park hospital elsewhere in the city.

The INMO’s Regina Durcan said the events of recent days were “showing that the full capacity protocol is not working and only increases the risks to patients all over the hospital by overcrowding wards.”

“We are calling on the Minister for Health to intervene in this crisis and to open up closed beds with adequate staffing in order to alleviate the intolerable overcrowding within University Hospital Galway.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said measures to tackle overcrowding were a government priority, and that the minister had set up a Special Delivery Unit “to address and unblock access to acute services”. This unit was working to analyse the flow of patients within hospitals.

The HSE was “working hard to address problems of overcrowding in Galway’s Emergency Department, including taking action to discharge patients whose acute phase of care is complete”.

“The Emergency Department at Galway University Hospital is among the busiest in the country, with 68,000 attendances per annum,” the spokesperson said, adding that the average attendance had increased over the last two to three weeks.

“At all times the hospital seeks to minimise the number of patients who have to wait on trollies in the ED. This includes managing the volume of elective surgeries being undertaken in the hospital and the employment of escalation policies to deal with surges in activity including the identification of patients for discharge who are ready to go home.”

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