CONCERNS have been voiced that Cork hospitals could see their worst year on record for overcrowding this year.
Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) industrial relations officer for Cork, Liam Conway, warned that hospitals could be facing a “perfect storm” if overcrowding is met with an increase in the number of patients with Covid-19.
The comments came as figures showed that 39 admitted patients were waiting for beds at Cork University Hospital (CUH) yesterday.
A total of 50 admitted patients were waiting for beds in the hospital’s emergency department on Tuesday, while 53 were waiting the previous day.
Yesterday, CUH also had the highest number of in-patients with Covid-19 out of all hospitals across the country.
Some 36 people with the virus were in-patients at the hospital, a significant increase on figures from the previous week.
Speaking to The Echo, Mr Conway said that overcrowding could pose a “serious risk” to patients and staff this winter and noted concerns over the impact of Covid-19 infection control measures.
“There’s real concern now of social distancing, there’s concern in relation to ventilation across a number of sites,” said Mr Conway.
He said that INMO members need “deliverable measures” to be put in place, such as increased staffing levels, to meet the demand for services.
“What we have is the perfect storm in our emergency departments where you have a high level of overcrowding, high occupancy levels within the emergency department waiting areas, and that’s really conducive to a significant danger for both patients and staff for the spread of Covid-19.
“Presentation levels being what they are, they’re very high, and I think what we’re going to see is probably the worst year on record in Cork unless proper measures are put in place.”
INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha warned on Tuesday that overcrowding mixed with poor ventilation could put hospitals at risk of becoming “infection hotspots”.
“Vaccination has made a massive difference, but there are still big dangers for frontline healthcare workers,” said Ní Sheaghdha.
Earlier this week, a spokesperson for CUH said the hospital is exceptionally busy and that it is regrettable that some patients may experience delays in the emergency department.
The spokesperson said the increase in Covid-19 in-patients is “reflective of the increase in transmission in the community”.
“Patient care is paramount in CUH, and this situation is being treated as a priority by hospital management who have taken steps to address this issue,” they said.
Hospital management has requested that, where appropriate, members of the public explore all other options available to them prior to attending the emergency department if their needs are not urgent.
“Hospital Management wishes to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of all staff during this very busy time and thank the public for their co-operation and support.”