'A real nightmare-before-Christmas scenario': INMO call for bespoke plans to address hospital overcrowding

More than 50 admitted patients were waiting for beds at hospitals in Cork yesterday. 
'A real nightmare-before-Christmas scenario': INMO call for bespoke plans to address hospital overcrowding

According to the INMO, the number of admitted patients waiting on trolleys in Irish hospitals yesterday reached its highest total since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

MORE than 50 admitted patients were waiting for beds at hospitals in Cork yesterday morning, with the national figure standing at 534 in what was described by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation as “a real nightmare-before-Christmas scenario”.

According to the INMO, the number of admitted patients waiting on trolleys in Irish hospitals yesterday reached its highest total since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cork University Hospital had the second-highest number of patients waiting for beds at its emergency department yesterday, and the fourth-highest number of patients waiting for beds overall, with 36 patients waiting on trolleys on Monday.

The most overcrowded hospital in the country yesterday was University Hospital Limerick, with a total of 79 people waiting for beds, including 50 in the hospital’s emergency department and 29 waiting on other wards.

Elsewhere in Cork, there were 14 admitted patients in Mercy University Hospital waiting on beds, and two on trolleys in wards at Bantry General Hospital.

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha described yesterday’s figures as “a real nightmare-before-Christmas scenario” and called for “urgent mitigation measures” from individual hospitals and the HSE to reduce the number of people on trolleys.

“Overcrowded hospitals reduce the ability to deliver safe care,” she said.

“With this pandemic, it is even more important that the HSE takes all necessary steps to avoid the overcrowded wards and emergency departments becoming the source of infection. We are once again calling for a fully-funded workforce plan, and adequate health and safety measures, including enhanced ventilation in our hospitals.”

Call for bespoke plans to tackle issue 

Ms Ní Sheaghdha said the public service is “under too much pressure to be expected to shoulder the entire burden of the pandemic, alongside rising numbers of patients presenting at emergency departments”, adding that the HSE must seek “full utilisation of private hospitals”.

“Our members are mentally and physically exhausted,” she said. “They cannot head into yet another pandemic winter with trolley numbers out of control while the pandemic continues.

“Decisive action and bespoke plans to tackle overcrowding, particularly in hospitals where we see persistent overcrowding, is needed.”

The call to action comes as figures show that more than 40 people with Covid-19 were being cared for at hospitals in Cork on Sunday, including 23 people at CUH and 19 at the Mercy.

Government watching hospitalisations 

Yesterday, Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said that the Government has real and valid concerns about the threat posed by Omicron and cannot rule out the need for further restrictions.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One, he said the Government will be watching the metrics around hospitalisations, among other areas.

The Environment Minister stressed the importance of getting as many booster doses delivered as possible in the weeks ahead.

He said scientists were still awaiting comprehensive data on the severity of the illness caused by Omicron.

“There is real concern, I think they are valid concerns,” he said.

"So we will continue to watch obviously what the health authorities in Europe are saying and listen to our own health authorities.

“My sense is still the basic message still should be the same, we do need everyone to try and get that booster done. That will, it seems, give further protection.

“And then it’s the basic measures – it’s good ventilation, good social distancing, the basic things we’ve learned over the last two years.” 

Asked if he could rule out further restrictions, the Green Party leader added: “I think in this virus what we’ve learned is never to rule anything out.

“We’re still awaiting the scientific analysis. And I think what we’re best doing though is following science, is looking at what our European colleagues are doing so to make sure that we’re part of a wider response. You can’t just work this if you just do it on your own.

“So I don’t think we can rule anything out but at the same time what we have seen I think that maybe gives people some hope is that the numbers in our hospitals have stabilised in the last number of weeks, we want to keep that going and that’s one of the metrics that will obviously be used to watch to see what’s happening to our health system.”

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