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There were more patients on trolleys last month than in any July in the past decade

However, in a statement to TheJournal.ie, the HSE disputed the INMO narrative, saying that the trolley count for yesterday showed an an overall reduction compared to the same date last year.

Image: Shutterstock

THERE WAS RECORD levels of overcrowding in hospital emergency departments last month, new statistics show.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation says 6,751 patients were admitted on trolleys to emergency departments (EDs) last month.

The figure is the highest they have recorded for July since their trolley/ward watch analysis began 12 years ago.

It comes as figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) show that there were 530,000 people on the public hospital waiting list for July – the highest on record.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has announced a list of measures to tackle the waiting list problem.

New hospital An artist's impression of the new children's hospital on the St James's Hospital campus in Dublin 8. Source: Rollingnews.ie

More staff

INMO general-secretary Liam Doran has called for more staff to be hired to tackle the number of patients on trolleys. He said:

These July figures are extremely disappointing and indicate the health system continues to underestimate the challenges arising within our Emergency Departments.

“The INMO has consistently said ED overcrowding and waiting lists difficulties cannot, and will not, be solved without additional nursing staff and an increase in bed capacity.

These issues will be at the centre of our forthcoming discussions with the Minister for Health and the Director General of the HSE.

HSE response

Asked about the INMO figures, the HSE said that the trolley count for yesterday showed an an overall reduction of 12.1% in the number of patients on trolleys, compared to the same date last year.

A HSE spokesman added:

For the year to date, 2016 versus 2015 shows an overall reduction in trolley numbers of 5.1%

The INMO say that the number of patients on trolleys is 95% higher than in 2006, when Health Minister Mary Harney declared that 495 people waiting on trolleys constituted a national emergency.

In terms of waiting lists, the number of people waiting for an outpatient appointment in Irish hospitals rose by 10,000 between June and July of this year.

This includes 11,519 children who have been waiting to be seen in hospital for over a year, and 9% of patients on waiting lists for over 15 months.

shutterstock_355142225 Source: Shutterstock

Vacant nursing posts

The INMO also say there are 150 vacant nursing posts, up from 135 earlier this year, and that there are almost 3,500 fewer nursing/midwifery posts in the public health service today as compared to 2009.

HSE figures also say that we have 250 less staff nurse posts at the end of June this year compared to December 2015.

The INMO say the HSE needs to increase bed capacity by recruiting more staff, and says the cutbacks in care packages have led to more delayed discharges.

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In a statement, the Department of Health told TheJournal.ie:

The HSE has the capacity to recruit nurses and the flexibility to determine which areas of the health service should be prioritised.
Due to cyclical variations, relating mainly to the 4th year undergraduate placement, it is necessary to compare figures on an annual not monthly basis.

The Department of Health added that there were 1,296 more nurses in overall number of nurses in June 2016 than in June 2014. 35,788 compared with 34,492 in the same month in 2014.

They also said that there were 811 more than in June 2015.

“While ED attendances increased by 5.3% so far this year, the number of patients on trolleys in EDs has decreased overall this year,” a spokeswoman added.

“To date this year there has been a reduction of 5% in trolley numbers in comparison with the same period last year.

“The HSE has advised that many hospitals reported a sustained increase in ED attendances during the month of July.

Hospitals have also been busier this year with an increase of 4% in inpatient and day-case activity and an increase of over 1% in elective activity.”

On 6 September, Minister for Health Simon Harris is due to meet the ED Taskforce, which is jointly chaired by HSE director general Tony O’Brien and Liam Doran of the INMO.

Read: Waiting lists are at an all-time high. Here’s what the Health Minister says he’ll do by the end of the year

Read: There are 11,519 children waiting over a year to be seen in an Irish hospital

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