CONDITIONS at Cork University Hospital (CUH) for both patients and staff have been described as intolerable and unsafe amid record overcrowding and capacity concerns.
Doctors and nurses have voiced frustration at the overcrowding and long delays facing patients.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has sought engagement with HSE management to discuss the issues and has warned it could curtail services unless urgent action is taken.
The union said Cork health services have been plunged into a crisis due to record overcrowding, hundreds of vacant frontline positions, including in nursing, and chronic failures in the recruitment and retention of staff.
Last month saw more than 1,000 patients waiting on trolleys or wards for a bed at the hospital.
The INMO has requested urgent action to address issues such as bed capacity and also raised concerns over midwife-to-patient ratios at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH).
INMO industrial relations officer for Cork, Liam Conway, said the conditions for patients and staff at CUH are intolerable and unsafe.
“Health service management must take tangible steps immediately to relieve the misery for staff and patients.
“The recruitment process is being delayed at the local level, leaving an already overcrowded hospital short-staffed,” he added.
“Immediate action must be taken to address this issue.
“We cannot head into the Autumn/Winter period with no clear plan to address all of these problems.”
Consultant at CUH Emergency Department, Dr Jason van der Velde, put the increased activity at the hospital down to a lack of capacity, both in terms of the hospital’s inpatient department and follow-on care in the community.
Fellow Emergency Department consultant at CUH, Dr Conor Deasy, said: “There has been a sustained increase in attendance and admission of older patients who have complex medical needs, spend longer in hospital and are difficult to discharge to step down, community, nursing home or indeed their own home.
“CUH desperately needs extra bed capacity for these older medical patients so they do not end up for prolonged lengths of time on the corridor of the ED receiving their care when they should be in a hospital bed,” he added.
“Step down and community capacity is required to facilitate these older patients being safely discharged.
“I think taxpayers will appreciate these patients deserve good quality care in a dignified clinical area and would support their taxes being spent efficiently on providing this.”
Dr Deasy recently explained that that the death toll from overcrowding in Irish hospitals is more than 300 a year.
It was revealed in recent weeks that emergency measures usually used as a ‘last resort’ to deal with ED overcrowding were implemented in CUH 137 times so far this year.
Full Capacity Protocol (FCP) measures see wards taking on extra patients on trolleys to create space in the emergency department and to allow sick patients to be taken off ambulances.
The use of FCP means that the hospital has run out of staffed beds due to inadequate capacity and the fact that many hospital beds are taken up by delayed discharges as people await community care.