Latest figures have revealed that there were 51,321 admitted patients on trolleys or overcrowded wards between January and June of this year.
These trolley/ward watch figures, compiled on a daily basis by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), confirm a six per cent increase on the first six months of 2016 and, in a 21 per cent rise on June of last year, last month saw 7, 124 patients on trolleys.
June’s most crowded hospitals were University Hospital Limerick (640), University Hospital Galway (566), Mater Hospital Dublin (532), Cork University Hospital (469), and University Hospital Waterford (406).
The INMO acknowledged that a number of hospitals have made attempts to maintain elective admissions in an effort to reduce waiting lists for planned care, but claimed that these figures are evidence that hospitals do not have the capacity to provide the required services for both planned and emergency admissions.
Hospitals are failing to provide the required capacity in terms of bed or staff due to the growing demand for emergency admissions, even in the peak summer period.
While there was a reduction in the numbers of patients on trolleys in Dublin, a significant increase has taken place in hospitals outside of Dublin. However, in the month of June, both Dublin and country hospitals saw an increase in patients on trolleys when compared to June 2016.
The INMO have claimed that severe nursing staff shortages in a number of Emergency Departments are due to a combination of vacant posts, staff leave and an inability to provide emergency staffing through agencies. As a result, they stated that there has been a negative impact upon patient care and intolerable working conditions for staff in both Emergency Departments and wards.
INMO General Secretary, Liam Doran commented: “These figures represent further evidence that our health service, through inadequate bed and staffing levels, simply cannot cope with the demands being placed upon it.
“The legitimate attempts to reduce waiting lists has only exacerbated the levels of overcrowding, with the indignity and loss of privacy that result, now taking place, in this peak summer period, in Emergency Departments and Wards across the country. These figures confirm that hospitals cannot deal with both planned and emergency admissions at the same time confirming that our health service remains far too small.
“The government and the HSE, in responding to these latest figures, must bring forward emergency measures, including resources, to immediately address this totally unacceptable situation”, he continued.
An Emergency Department Taskforce was held on Monday 3 July, where the INMO addressed capacity issues, seeking confirmation that immediate steps would be taken, even ahead of planning for the winter surge, to address the current record levels of overcrowding.