‘Grim winter ahead’ for hospitals with 'out of control' overcrowding

Some 68 patients were left waiting on trolleys in Cork University Hospital Emergency Department (ED) yesterday alone — the highest of any ED in Ireland.
‘Grim winter ahead’ for hospitals with 'out of control' overcrowding

File image of an ambulance outside the emergency department at CUH. Picture Denis Minihane.

SHOCKING numbers of patients left on hospital trolleys yesterday have fuelled concerns about a “bleak winter” ahead for Cork’s frontline workers.

Some 68 patients were left waiting on trolleys in Cork University Hospital Emergency Department (ED) yesterday alone — the highest of any ED in Ireland.

A total of 30 patients were left waiting on trolleys at the Mercy University Hospital. In Bantry General Hospital, four patients were on trolleys, bringing the total in Cork to 102.

Frontline workers and patients were not alone in their frustrations amid reports of 596 patients left on trolleys across hospitals in Ireland yesterday. These included over 20 children under the age of 16.

The situation has prompted calls from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation for what they describe as “meaningful and targeted interventions to prevent another predictable winter”. They cited “out of control” overcrowding and cancellations of elective procedures among their most significant concerns.

Colm Porter, the Cork-based assistant director of industrial relations at the INMO, said the figures paint a worrying picture.

“The level that we are experiencing over the summer is what you’d experience in a worst-case scenario in winter,” he said. 

“This is painting a grim picture of what is ahead for the winter months. This is not normal and it shouldn’t be normalised under any circumstances. That is our view. We can’t get away from the fact that staff are burned out. They have gone from the pressurised environment of the pandemic into this current situation. The pressures on hospital staff have been unrelenting. 

"You have cases of hospitals being overcrowded and staff working in cramped conditions. The high levels of respiratory diseases to come in wintertime is going to bring massive risk for them too. 

"Our main priority is to deliver safe patient care and the conditions they work in are making it difficult for people at the moment.

“20 hours in ED is bound to have an impact on people. Staff are doing the best they can but when you are running out of space, and with demand how it is, it can be tough for them to deliver safe patient care.” Mr Porter expressed fears the situation may lead to increased cases of abuse directed at frontline workers.

He called for drastic action adding: “The health minister and HSE need to implement a fully funded winter plan. It’s not good enough to publish the plan for winter when healthcare workers and patients are in the throes of a winter crisis.”

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