Trolley jpg

Flu blamed for hospital trolley debacle

Phil Ní Sheaghdha. photo.


By Anthony Neeson

A record number of patients were waiting for admission to hospital on Monday with 760 waiting on trolleys in the Republic’s hospitals.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar blamed the flu outbreak and lack of hospital beds on the unprecedented numbers waiting in emergency departments.

“Predicting a very bad flu season is like predicting a bad storm – and it still happens,” he said. “You have to try to manage and prepare for it the best you can.”

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The previous high figure of 714 patients was in March 2018. On Monday, January 6, there were 92 patients on trolleys in University Hospital Limerick; 56 patients waiting on trolleys in Cork University Hospital; 47 patients in University Hospital Galway, and 40 in South Tipperary General Hospital.

Phil Ní Sheaghdha, Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation general secretary, said Ireland’s “beleaguered health service” was continuing to break records “in the worst possible way.”

“The excuse that this is all down to the flu simply doesn’t hold,” she said.

“There are always extra patients in winter, but we simply do not get the extra capacity to cope. This is entirely predictable, yet we seemingly fail to deal with it every year.”

Trade union Siptu is warning that overcrowding at hospitals is "causing chaos for ambulance professionals across the country.”

Ambulance crews are facing delays outside hospital emergency departments while waiting to handover patients, the union said.

Paul Bell, Siptu health division organizer, said: “While the HSE and Department of Health are responding to some areas of the overcrowding crisis, primarily by attempting to boost the number of beds available in hospitals, there seems to be little consideration or emergency planning to make sure ambulances are kept on the road and readily available for communities.”

He added: “Over the weekend, we had the absurd situation where Siptu members working a 12-hour shift in an ambulance base in County Clare were dispatched on a round-trip to Clonmel and back to Youghal due to local resources being held up in Tipperary, while ambulances from Kilkenny bases were dispatched to emergencies in Cork.”