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Wednesday 27 September 2023 Dublin: 15°C
Mark Stedman/
# Perfect Storm
Paramedics 'disturbed' over delays bringing patients to Emergency Departments
Siptu members said today that delays of between one and three hours have been observed across the country.

Updated 10.30pm

MEMBERS OF THE National Ambulance Service have said that delays of between one and three hours were observed today in transferring patients from ambulance staff to that of the emergency department team.

Siptu members in the National Ambulance Service (NAS) have also expressed their concerns for patient safety resulting from the delays.

The union’s health division organiser Paul Bell said: “Prior to the current crisis, the time that patients were spending between arriving at a hospital and being transferred from the care of ambulance staff to that of the emergency department team was on average 20 minutes or less.

“However, due to the current overcrowding crisis in emergency departments this time has increased to on average between one to three hours in many hospitals across the country.

Today, members have reported to me that such delays have been experienced in more than 15 hospitals across the country. The hospitals affected include Letterkenny, Waterford, Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda and St. Vincent’s in Dublin.

“Such delays are then having knock on effects on other ambulance services including responding to emergency calls and routine patient transfers.”

Bell highlights that its members are also increasingly “disturbed and frustrated” by the situation.

In a video shared widely today on Facebook, over a dozen ambulances can be seen waiting to get into Limerick University Hospital.

Bell added: “Our members in the NAS cannot be held in anyway accountable for these delays which are completely due to circumstances beyond their control.”

Speaking to RTÉ’s Six One News, A&E consultant at Tallaght Hospital Dr James Gray outlined the problems that hospital is currently facing.

He said: ”One of those patients had an isolation requirement, but we didn’t have enough isolation facilities in the emergency department. That patient was warehoused in a cubicle with a protector. It’s far from first world medicine.”

He described the current situation as “catastrophic” and a crisis that lasts all year long. Gray added that the current situation was predictable, and that the surge in demand happens at the same time every year.

The trolley crisis is getting worse… I don’t have any confidence that this Minister or the HSE can solve this crisis at the moment.

Earlier today, Health Minister Simon Harris described the situation in Irish hospitals this week as “a perfect storm”.

29/12/2016 Emergency Department overcrowding. Pict Leah Farrell / Leah Farrell / /

Yesterday saw a record high of 612 people on trolleys or waiting for beds, that number is expected to be the same, if not worse, today.

This morning the INMO described the conditions in Emergency Departments as ‘chaotic, cruel and extremely difficult’ for both nurses and patients.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Harris said, “You couldn’t possibly have predicted the level and strength of the influenza at this time of the year, it’s not comparable with any recent years.”

Describing the steps being taken to deal with the situation, Harris said, “How we respond to this is something that we should be judged on.”

The Minister met with management in the health service yesterday and will have a further update tomorrow.

The HSE were out visiting most of our hospitals yesterday and they talked to frontline staff, they talked to management and they’ve come back with a range of things they’d like to see done to support the hospitals … they have until Thursday to come back to me with a plan.

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) called on politicians to “stop blaming flu” for the overcrowding.

Chairman Dr Peadar Gilligan said the root causes of the recurring problem was a lack of beds, a lack of doctors and other staff and a poorly resourced GP infrastructure.

“It’s not because of seasonal issues or a spike in flu cases. It’s because politicians knowingly and deliberately took 1600 beds out of our hospitals, introduced policies that were a direct cause of doctors emigrating and failed to invest in general gractice,” he said.

All this at a time when our population was rising and there are more elderly people than ever before in need of healthcare. It doesn’t get simpler than this; we’ve reduced the size of the container but we’re still trying to get more and more into it every day. It just won’t work.

Minister Harris earlier acknowledged that bed numbers were “a part of it” but said it is “not just about hospital beds – it’s about how we use hospital beds”.

He also added that “you need staff to work with beds”.

“Staffing is a legitimate area … we did lose a significant number of nurses during the crisis. We want to hire 1,000 extra nurses in 2017.”

He said that the challenges in the health service keep him up at night, but added, “No one person will fix it on their own but I certainly won’t be found lacking in terms of effort.”

In response to a request for comment from, a HSE spokesperson said: “The HSE has acknowledged the pressure being experienced by all staff across acute settings and within the National Ambulance Service as a result of the ongoing overcrowding in Emergency Departments.

“Our main focus remains on ensuring that our patients access essential care, admission and treatment as quickly as possible in the most appropriate manner including quicker turnaround of our ambulances at Emergency Departments.

“Our Hospital groups are focused on improving the ambulance turnaround times despite the current difficulties at our EDs.”

With reporting from Cliodhna Russell.

Read: There are currently 612 people waiting for beds in Irish hospitals>

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