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'They deserve better': Taoiseach apologises to patients waiting on hospital trolleys as numbers rise

There were 10,641 patients on trolleys in Irish hospitals last month.

(File photo)
(File photo)
Image: PA Archive/PA Images

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has apologised to patients and staff affected by the rise in trolley numbers today.

There were 610 people on trolleys this morning, while 10,641 patients were on trolleys in Irish hospitals last month, according to a leading union.

The figures, from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), say that 101 of those waiting for a bed were children, and that September 2019 was the worst September for overcrowding on record.

This is double the number of people on waiting on trolleys for a bed ten years ago.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Varadkar acknowledged that overcrowding in Irish hospitals was “very severe this morning”.

“I apologise to the patients and staff affected and also their loved ones, who deserve much better than to have to wait for a hospital bed. It is worth pointing out, however, that the vast majority of people on hospital a trolley this morning will be in a proper hospital bed before the evening is out,” he said.

The hospitals with the highest numbers of patients on trolleys last month were:

– University Hospital Limerick – 1,405
– Cork University Hospital – 936
– University Hospital Galway – 884
– University Hospital Waterford – 707
– Mater Misericordiae University Hospital – 639

University Hospital Limerick (UHL) has been at the centre of much political and public attention as overcrowding continues to plague it with no sign of respite, reaching the national record for the most overcrowded hospital in Ireland for a third time last week.

The Taoiseach added today:

During the first half of this year, we saw encouraging reductions in the numbers of patients on trolleys year on year but there has been a deterioration since June. It has been getting steadily worse since then, regrettably. Part of that is down to an increase in the number of people attending our emergency departments, but there was also an increase in the first half of the year. Despite this, we have fewer patients on trolleys, so that does not explain it full.

It is understood that the Taoiseach spoke to Health Minister Simon Harris about the numbers on the margins of today’s Cabinet meeting.

“When I spoke to the Minister for Health about this matter this morning, I learned that action is being taken. We are adding more beds to our hospital system.”

He said since 2012, extra beds to the hospital system have been added. “More money is being invested and spent in our health services than ever before,” he said.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said “more than an apology is needed”.

“Those patients and others, and any families who finds themselves in this situation, actually want change and a solution to this matter.  The Taoiseach comes in here as a matter of routine and recites the actions he claims to have taken and numbers of beds and so on but the reality is that the system does not have the capacity necessary to deliver the care that the patients need.”

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