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'We're sleepwalking back to mass overcrowding': 221 patients on trolleys in Irish hospitals

The INMO has warned that overcrowding and Covid-19 make for a ‘toxic combination’.

Image: Shutterstock

HEALTH WORKERS HAVE expressed concern about the number of patients who were on trolleys in Irish hospitals this morning.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) reported 221 patients were on trolleys across the country – the highest figure since Covid-19 restrictions were introduced in March.

The majority of those patients (183) were on trolleys in Emergency Departments with 38 on trolleys in hospital wards. Fifty patients were on trolleys in Cork University Hospital this morning.

The union has warned that overcrowding and Covid-19 make for a “toxic combination”, increasing the risk of infection, and “endangering staff and patients”.

The worst-affected hospitals include:

  • Cork University Hospital: 50
  • University Hospital Limerick: 41
  • Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar: 25
  • Mayo University Hospital: 22
  • Sligo University Hospital: 14
  • Crumlin children’s hospital: 13

INMO Industrial Relations Officer for Cork University Hospital, Liam Conway, said frontline members are “rightly worried for their safety and that of their patients”.

“Infection control is necessarily compromised in a hospital with patients in corridors and on trolleys.

“The HSE assured us that there would be no tolerance of overcrowding during Covid. Yet no actions have been taken and we are sleepwalking back to mass overcrowding.”

The INMO is calling for additional home care packages, higher staffed bed capacity and an expansion of step-down facility capacity.

Labour Party leader Alan Kelly has said the figures give us a first glimpse into winter in our health service.

“Every year I call for a tailored plan to deal with the trolley crisis in winter especially for University Hospital Limerick and Cork University Hospital which traditionally see large spikes of trolley numbers, and now more than ever before we need to see a funded, targeted plan for the midwest and southwest regions,” he said.

“Our healthcare heroes have already been through so much this year.

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“After all the emotional support this government gave them through speeches, applause and lit candles, the least they deserve is a plan from Minister Donnelly and the HSE to increase bed capacity to avoid what we know are traditional spikes in trolley numbers.”

Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson David Cullinane also expressed alarm at the numbers.

He said the country’s acute hospitals are facing into a ‘perfect storm’ with Covid-19 care, non-Covid services, catch-up care and the winter flu.

“Hospitals face a mighty challenge in delivering Covid and non-Covid care while respecting infection control and social distancing guidelines,” Cullinane said.

“Quite simply we need urgent additional capacity to keep up never mind catch up on missed care.”

He accused Health Minister Stephen Donnelly of ‘dithering’ and failing to produce a plan on time to address the current challenges.

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