Cork hospitals facing 'seriously acute problems' with overcrowding, warns INMO

More than 1,000 admitted patients were waiting for beds at CUH last month. 
Cork hospitals facing 'seriously acute problems' with overcrowding, warns INMO

CUH recorded the highest number of admitted patients waiting for beds out of any hospital nationwide during September, with a figure of 1,094.Picture Denis Minihane.

Two of Cork’s main hospitals have recorded their worst September for overcrowding.

According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), Cork University Hospital (CUH) and the Mercy University Hospital (MUH) were among five hospitals across the country that saw more patients on trolleys last month than in any other September.

Furthermore, CUH recorded the highest number of admitted patients waiting for beds out of any hospital nationwide during September, with a figure of 1,094.

Cork-based INMO industrial relations officer Liam Conway said both CUH and the Mercy hospitals were facing “seriously acute problems” with overcrowding.

“Our members in CUH and Mercy are frankly exhausted and dealing with a staggering amount of work. At its core, this is a staffing issue. We need more nurses inside Cork’s hospitals, along with measures to treat people in the community,” he said.

Surge in attendance 

A spokesperson for the Mercy Hospital said that there has been a surge in the volume of attendances at MUH’s emergency department (ED), which was leading to delays within the department and was being replicated nationally in other EDs.

“However, MUH would like to stress that the clinical needs of all patients in the emergency department are being cared for. The Mercy local injury unit on St Mary’s Health Campus is also experiencing higher numbers of presentations than normal,” the spokesperson said.

“The implementation of the hospital’s escalation policy is ongoing to deal with the high number of attendees at the emergency department and while the emergency department remains open 24/7 it is regrettable that patients will experience delays,” the spokesperson said.

They said that the expanded MUH emergency department is now fully operational and additional staff were recruited to enable its commissioning. Furthermore, the spokesperson said that all beds in the hospital are open including additional temporary beds.

“The hospital continues to actively recruit specialist staff in all areas and while significant progress has been made, challenges arise due to international shortage of nursing staff in particular,” the spokesperson said. On a number of occasions in recent weeks, CUH has also highlighted that the hospital has been “exceptionally busy” with hospital management requesting that, where appropriate, the public contact their GP in the first instance, and explore all other options available to them, including the Mercy urgent care centre and the local injuries units, prior to attending the emergency department if their needs are not urgent.

A national issue 

The issue is not unique to Cork and the INMO said that while overcrowding figures reached record lows in 2019 and 2020 due to the pandemic response, many hospitals are “rapidly returning to the bad old days of overcrowding”.

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha has called for an immediate meeting with senior officials in the HSE on the issue saying “over the coming weeks we need to see planned funding for the implementation of safe staffing across the health service, and we need to see a detailed winter plan from the HSE.”

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