Nurses in Cork 'burnt out and frustrated', says INMO as figures show extent of overcrowding at hospitals 

Cork University Hospital experienced the third-highest level of overcrowding out of hospitals nationally during January of this year.
Nurses in Cork 'burnt out and frustrated', says INMO as figures show extent of overcrowding at hospitals 

Cork University Hospital (CUH) experienced the third-highest level of overcrowding during January of this year. There was a total of 750 patients waiting on beds at CUH over the course of the month. Pic; Larry Cummins

THE Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has called for “bespoke plans” to be produced for hospitals “where chronic overcrowding is a persistent feature of the hospital environment” after figures revealed that January overcrowding in some hospitals, including in Cork, has reached levels never before seen.

Publishing their first monthly Trolley Watch report of 2022, the INMO said that urgent action must be taken to address overcrowding in Irish hospitals.

Their call comes as the new figures reveal that nationally there were 8,636 patients on trolleys in the month of January, 132% higher than January 2021.

Cork University Hospital (CUH) experienced the third-highest level of overcrowding during January of this year.

There was a total of 750 patients waiting on beds at CUH over the course of the month.

This was up from last year when 522 patients were waiting on beds at the hospital during the same month.

The two hospitals that experienced the highest levels of overcrowding during January 2022 were University Hospital Limerick, with 1,300 on trolleys, and Letterkenny University Hospital, with 817 waiting on beds.

Record high number of patients waiting for beds at Mercy 

In Cork, Mercy University Hospital (MUH) had a total of 472 patients waiting on beds during the month, according to the INMO — the highest on record for January.

“We cannot allow a return to pre-2020 business as usual in our hospitals, where chronic overcrowding is allowed to continue,” INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said.

“It is only the first month of the year and we had overcrowding records broken in our hospitals, with University Hospital Limerick logging record overcrowding two days in a row last week.

“We have seen the highest levels of January overcrowding since the INMO began Trolley Watch in 2006 in University Hospital Limerick, Letterkenny University Hospital, Mercy University Hospital, Portiuncula Hospital, Sligo University Hospital, [and] University Hospital Galway.

“It is not acceptable to us that chronic overcrowding is allowed to continue while Covid is still rampant in many of our hospitals.

“Our members are frankly embarrassed and tired of apologising to patients for the poor standard of care environments,” she continued.

Ms Ní Sheaghdha said the HSE must take steps to ensure that chronic levels of overcrowding do not continue into February, March, and beyond.

“The HSE should once again issue guidance to all hospitals on curtailing non-urgent elective procedures until the end of February.

“Bespoke plans should be produced for hospitals where chronic overcrowding is a persistent feature of the hospital environment,” she said.

Speaking about the situation in Cork, INMO officer for Cork and Kerry Liam Conway said overcrowding was a “serious issue”, particularly in CUH and MUH, and that staff are “burnt out and frustrated”.

Following society’s return to normality with the easing of Covid restrictions, Mr Conway said that there had been an increase in presentations to emergency departments.

In relation to the situation at MUH, Mr Conway said that the INMO recently met with hospital management and that short-term measures had been put in place in a bid to tackle the situation. However, he warned that this was not a “silver bullet”.

He said urgent action must be taken to tackle overcrowding in hospitals across the country, adding that additional resources, not just an increase in bed capacity, was needed to tackle the issue.

CUH statement 

A spokesperson for CUH said that the emergency department at the hospital has been "exceptionally busy" over the last number of days. 

"Due to this increased level of activity and subsequent admissions, it is regrettable that some patients may experience a delay in the ED.

"The increase in attendance is due to the large number of very ill medical patients requiring admission 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.

"Hospital management have requested that, where appropriate, the public contact their GP/South Doc in the first instance and explore all other options available to them prior to attending the Emergency Department if their needs are not urgent.

  • General Practitioner / South Doc 
  • Mercy Urgent Care Centre, St. Mary’s Health Campus, Gurranabraher, Cork TelephoneTelephone - 021-4926900 
  • Local Injuries Unit Bantry General Hospital: Telephone 027 50133
  • Local Injuries Unit, Mallow: General Hospital: Telephone 022 – 58506.

"Hospital Management wishes to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of all staff during this very busy time," the spokesperson added. 

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