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'Obscene': 679 patients waiting for hospital bed - the highest figure in 2019

The number of patients on trolleys is the second highest ever recorded.

Image: Shutterstock/Hadrian

NEW FIGURES SHOW that 679 patients are without beds in Irish hospitals, the largest figure in 2019 and the second-highest ever recorded. 

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) described the situation as “obscene”. 

The figure is significantly higher than the previously record for 2019, which was 631. 

In University Hospital Limerick, 63 patients were without beds, while in University Hospital Cork the figure was 60. 

The number of patients without beds was also high in Letterkenny University Hospital, with 47 patients on trolleys. In South Tipperary Hospital, 40 people were without a bed. 

INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said health staff were faced with a “inhumane working environment, while patients are put at ever-increasing risk”. 

“Winter has not even started, and Irish hospitals are overwhelmed,” she said. 

The union said that South Tipperary Hospital in particular was in “crisis”.

The highest figure ever for patients without beds was 714 and was recorded in March 2018. 

In September, a report by the Economic & Social Research Institute (ERSI) suggested that only an 10% increase in both home and residential care would reduce pressure for beds in Irish hospitals. 

The report was welcomed by Minister for Health Simon Harris, who is leading the government’s efforts to overhaul the Irish health service under the banner of Sláintecare. 

The Labour Party’s health spokesperson Alan Kelly said that “this type of pattern cannot be allowed to continue”. 

“Not only do sick patients deserve better, but hardworking frontline staff cannot endure another winter of discontent in our hospitals,” he said. 

The Department of Health said in a statement that:

“This is a very busy period for our health services, with many sites reporting significant numbers of patient attendances. For the first nine months of 2019, the number of patients attending hospital EDs (Emergency Departments) increased by 3%, and the number of ED admissions increased by 1.4% compared to the same period last year.”

It said that the Department is engaging extensively with the HSE this year to identify mitigating actions to bring down trolley numbers and waiting times in the EDs.

The Department of Health has secured funding of €26 million for Winter Funding in 2019. This is being used to relieve demand for ED services, support discharge and other initiatives to help hospitals deal with the challenges associated with Winter. Specifically, the funding will support access to the Fair Deal scheme and the availability of home care, transitional care, aids and appliances and other local actions to both facilitate timely hospital discharge and reduce congestion in EDs over the winter period.

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Minister Harris has spoken to each Hospital Group CEO today and will meet with the HSE CEO this afternoon to discuss the very high trolley figures.

“The Minister has asked the CEOs to outline how the situation has escalated to this point and how it will use additional Government funding to make improvements for patients.”

Our colleagues at have published a proposal to investigate more deeply the issue of our healthcare system overload. Click here if you wish to support their work.

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