MORE beds are needed at Cork University Hospital — but opening them without additional staff would put both patients and staff at risk, according to a nurses’ union.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) warned that staff vacancies at CUH make it difficult to open additional beds, despite 20 new beds being promised by Health Minister Simon Harris.
Mr Harris told the Oireachtas health committee in December that up to 190 beds were to be opened in hospitals across Ireland in the coming weeks in a bid to alleviate pressure on hospital emergency departments (EDs).
The Department of Health confirmed to The Echo that 20 new beds were earmarked for CUH.
Conor Deasy, a consultant in emergency medicine at CUH, revealed that these beds are still not open.
Liam Conway, INMO industrial relations officer for Cork, said additional beds are needed, but that more staff must be recruited to ensure they can be safely staffed.
“CUH has over 50 vacancies for areas currently opened — wards and the emergency department are already short-staffed,” he said.
“There is simply not enough staff available with the vacancies to open any additional beds.
“To open additional beds would only bring further risks to patients and staff on existing wards and in any additional new ward area, as they would be significantly short of nursing staff.
“Additional beds are needed, however, the lifting of the recruitment derogation process nationally — an embargo but not in name — is required to fill the current vacancies and to allow for additional bed capacity to open.
“The HSE nationally continues to operate with this recruitment process.
“Therefore, the minister’s promises are not a reality at present.
Trolley figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation show that 1,680 patients were left waiting for hospital beds across three Cork hospitals in the past month.
More than 1,100 were left on trolleys or in wards in Cork University Hospital, while a further 431 awaited beds in the Mercy, along with more than 142 in Bantry General.
CUH experienced some of its worst overcrowding in recent times during January.
The hospital had 73 patients waiting for beds on January 3, and saw 67 people on trolleys just six days later.
“January 2020 has been very difficult for patients and staff in the ED at CUH,” said Dr Deasy.
“We desperately need to see bed capacity coming on line at CUH.
“We are short medical beds, high-dependency and intensive care beds, and step down beds.”