CORK University Hospital (CUH) is “beyond crisis point”, because its full-capacity protocol has been implemented 137 times so far this year, according to Cork South Central Sinn Féin TD, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire.
This statistic, one of the highest in the State, was cited in a response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly.
Mr Ó Laoghaire said that the frequent use of the protocol at the hospital was a sign that the health service cannot function properly.
“Full-capacity protocol is a hospital’s highest level measure for dealing with emergency department overcrowding. In a properly functioning health service, it should be implemented only in exceptional circumstances.
“That it was invoked 137 times in Cork University Hospital, so far this year, is unacceptable and a signal of a health service beyond crisis point, for patients and staff,” Mr Ó Laoghaire said. The full-capacity protocol involves much of the hospital’s normal activity being suspended to accommodate patients, with people moved onto wards and hallways outside the emergency unit and, in some cases, elective surgeries being cancelled. “The situation puts huge pressure on patients and their families and it puts huge pressure on staff in our hospitals,” said Mr Ó Laoghaire.
“The public are well aware of the dangers of overcrowding. Dr Fergal Hickey, former president of the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine, has stated many times that up to 350 patients are dying each year as a direct result of overcrowding in Irish hospitals.
“Indeed, the overcrowding situation would be much worse, only for the fantastic work of the staff in the health service. They are overworked and understaffed and, all the while, they do excellent work, under the most extreme pressures. As regards solutions, the only way to combat overcrowding is to invest in, and expand, primary care, increase the capacity of our hospitals, and hire more staff, none of which this government has prioritised in any meaningful way,” he added.