Worst July on record for patients left waiting on trolleys

Irish hospitals have experienced the worst July ever for overcrowding in emergency departments, nurses have said.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said a total of 9,439 patients were forced to wait without a bed this month, an increase of 33pc compared with July 2018.

When records began in 2006, there were 3,460 patients on trolleys in July, just over a third of this month’s figure.

Among the 9,439 patients were 45 children.

University Hospital Limerick was the most overcrowded with 1,293 patients waiting for a bed last month.

It was followed by Cork University Hospital with 1,079 people waiting on trolleys, University Hospital Galway with 707, University Hospital Waterford with 590 and Dublin’s Mater University Hospital with 560 patients waiting for beds.

INMO director of industrial relations Tony Fitzpatrick said each day there are hundreds of patients “languishing” in corridors, waiting for a hospital bed.

“Currently over 700 patients cannot be discharged from hospital,” he said.

“In the meantime, hundreds of front-line nursing and midwifery posts are currently vacant due to the HSE’s dysfunctional and bureaucratic employment control processes.

“Vital roles across all services, at all grades, in all hospitals are left unfilled. This has direct negative consequences for patients.

“We expect increased demands on the health service in winter, but now even summer sees patients crammed into corridors on trolleys.”

In a statement, University Hospital Limerick (UHL) apologised for the “distress and inconvenience” that such extended waiting times have caused for patients and their loved ones.

“Bed capacity at UHL remains considerably below that of comparable hospitals in Ireland,” a spokesperson said.

“455 inpatient beds is not sufficient for the needs of the mid-west region. Over the past 12 months, bed capacity at UHL has increased by five.

“Construction has also commenced on a 60-bed block at UHL, which we expect to open in Q4 of 2020.

“With an estimated total capital cost of €19.5m, this is a significant project for the mid-west that will begin to address the acknowledged shortfall in bed capacity in UL Hospitals Group,” the statement read.

Commenting on the figures, Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) slammed the HSE as completely “failing to heed” its own projections.

“We are now seeing manifestation in our acute hospitals of State failure to appropriately resource care in the community,” said NHI CEO Tadgh Daly.

“Over 800 people are now awaiting Fair Deal funding approval, with the numbers rising due to the budgetary constraints that started emerging just a few months into the year.

“We warned at the start of the year the very marginal increase in numbers to be supported by Fair Deal over the course of 2019 would manifest in severe pressures being placed upon our acute hospitals.”

The HSE had not replied to a request for comment at the time of going to press last night.

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