Situation at CUH ‘totally unworkable’ and 'could impact mortality rates'

The figure has alarmed the medical community.
Situation at CUH ‘totally unworkable’ and 'could impact mortality rates'

INMO industrial relations officer Liam Conway said he expects the number of patients on trolleys in CUH to hit 100 as winter illnesses take their toll in the coming months. Picture Dan Linehan

Cork University Hospital (CUH) faced unprecedented overcrowding yesterday, with 88 patients on trolleys, setting a new record for the hospital.

The figure has alarmed the medical community. Nationally, there were 529 patients without a bed at hospitals across the country.

The figures were released by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), who have raised serious concerns about the situation at CUH.

INMO industrial relations officer Liam Conway said:

“The situation in Cork University Hospital is completely unworkable for our members, who are currently trying to offer care in intolerable circumstances. The bed deficit that currently exists in both CUH and the community is completely unacceptable.”

He expects the number of patients on trolleys in CUH to hit 100 as winter illnesses take their toll in the coming months.

“A bespoke taskforce is now needed to tackle the ongoing issues in Cork University Hospital. Our members in CUH will not tolerate another winter where they are exposed to excessive workloads, which leads to excessive burnout,” Mr Conway said.

He expressed fears that the crisis may impact mortality rates.

“The mortality rate increases the longer you spend in the emergency dept. That is a proven, scientific fact. It leads to poor patient outcomes and increases a patient’s length of stay. Patients often develop further complications because they are not being cared for in an appropriate setting.

“This is seen particularly in older patients who develop issues such as delirium or an acute state of confusion. There are also concerns about basic needs being met after hours within the emergency department such as the need for food and water. This is hugely frustrating for staff.” He said morale is at an all-time low.

“Assaults are on the increase because there is such a high level of overcrowding. The frustration being experienced by patients is impacting nurses. It’s inevitable you are going to get situations where people are frustrated with the health service and the wait times.

“Staff retention is a major issue in light of the intolerable conditions being sustained for significant periods. The big thing is that our members want to deliver the best care possible at the right time and in the right place.” He spoke of the measures required to tackle the trolley crisis.

“There needs to be urgent engagement with the group hospitals. Funding was sought for 24 beds in CUH but they haven’t been opened. Additional funds need to be put in place for the acute hospitals.

“However, there also needs to be urgent funding put into the community to facilitate additional beds in the community. A lot of areas have closed beds since Covid because of infection control and those beds haven’t come back to the system. There needs to be urgent priority on that. The Winter is set to see a serious increase in influenza. With the strains coming in from Australia and challenges related to Covid-19 it’s going to be the perfect storm.” Meanwhile, CUH has apologised to patients experiencing delays.

“Cork University Hospital wishes to apologise to all patients who continue to be affected by long waiting periods at the hospital's Emergency Department,” a spokesperson for the hospital said.

“The hospital has a long-standing challenge with acute inpatient bed capacity on site. This unfortunately has resulted in a large number of patients having to endure lengthy waiting times in the Emergency Department awaiting admission.

“Staff work very hard to provide ongoing safe care to all patients who await admission. We are working with HSE colleagues regionally and nationally to address this.”

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