Overcrowding and extreme delays as Cork University Hospital declares a 'black escalation level'

Overcrowding and extreme delays as Cork University Hospital declares a 'black escalation level'
Lakewood's Heather Kennedy and Wilton's Eimear Roantree tussle for a loose ball last year. Picture: Howard Crowdy

A 'black escalation level' has been declared at Cork University Hospital (CUH) as patients experience extreme delays.

A black escalation, according to HSE guidelines, means the emergency department (ED) and other parts of the hospital are in a "critical position and clinically unsafe”.

Seventy patients were awaiting a hospital bed in CUH today, as the hospital experienced high levels of overcrowding.

CUH has catered for 50 or more patients who were awaiting beds for the past three consecutive days.

“Patients are enduring extreme delays which is distressing,” said Dr Conor Deasy, Consultant in Emergency Medicine at CUH.

“Staff are working in an extremely congested hospital and emergency department and are trying their best to treat the sickest and mitigate the risks associated with long delays to emergency care.” 

Dr Deasy revealed that ambulances are actually getting delayed due to the lack of physical space to offload patients.

“Last night the waiting room was extremely overcrowded; inside there was very little space for doctors to see and treat patients,” he added.

Dr Deasy said a series of actions have been taken in the hospital and community that are designed to create bed capacity, as a result of the escalation.

Dr Conor Deasy, a Consultant in Emergency Medicine at the Cork University Hospital (CUH)
Dr Conor Deasy, a Consultant in Emergency Medicine at the Cork University Hospital (CUH)

“The advice to patients is, where possible, seek medical care from their GP, injury units or private hospitals.

“If you need to attend ED we will do our best for you but be aware that there will be delays,” he advised.

Cork GP Dr John Sheehan explained that the ability to find beds in the community is impacting the situation at CUH.

“Having talked to some colleagues in CUH, it’s the worst they’ve seen in 10 or 15 years,” he said.

“That is unusual for this time of year in particular given there is no flu epidemic at the moment.

“Our ability to find step down, long term rehabilitation units is limited so patients aren’t being moved on when they need to and that’s creating a backlog,” he added.

“So although there is chaos in the A&E at the moment, it’s not just an A&E problem, it’s a hospital-wide problem.”

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