Michael McGrath: ‘Unprecedented strain’ on emergency departments not acceptable

A new report has revealed that patients in EDs have been forced to wait 80 to 90 hours to get a bed.
Michael McGrath: ‘Unprecedented strain’ on emergency departments not acceptable

The health watchdog warned that overcrowding continues to pose a risk to the health and safety of patients. It said that patients’ dignity, privacy and right to confidentiality was being compromised.

A Cork minister has said that emergency departments (EDs) which are under “unprecedented strain” is not acceptable to the Government nor the HSE, admitting that it needs to do better.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath was reacting to a new report from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), which revealed that patients in EDs have been forced to wait 80 to 90 hours to get a bed.

The health watchdog warned that overcrowding continues to pose a risk to the health and safety of patients. It said that patients’ dignity, privacy and right to confidentiality was being compromised.

It was also revealed that one patients had to wait 116 hours on a trolley at Limerick University Hospital. The report found there are problems around bed capacity, staff shortages and a lack of access to community services.

Today, the Mercy University Hospital warned the public that its Emergency Department (ED) is currently experiencing high demand for its ED services due to 'a marked increase in the attendances of acutely ill patients and a surge in Covid-19, flu and winter vomiting presentations'.

Mr McGrath told the Dáil on Wednesday that while it does not affect every ED department, the situation is “quite serious” in some.

However, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the report is a “damning indictment” of Government health policy.

She said that the report echoes concerns of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, which has warned that hospitals face a “nightmare winter”.

Ms McDonald said last month was the worst November on record for hospital overcrowding, with 12,624 patients left on trolleys.

“Chronic overcrowding creates dangerous situations, and HIQA particularly highlights how patients are often waiting far too long to be triaged for care." 

She accused Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly of failing to address the issues in his two-and-a-half years in office. Ms McDonald urged the Government to build bed capacity in hospitals, increase community and step-down beds and formulate a plan to address the lack of GPs.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath was reacting to a new report from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), which revealed that patients in EDs have been forced to wait 80 to 90 hours to get a bed.
Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath was reacting to a new report from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), which revealed that patients in EDs have been forced to wait 80 to 90 hours to get a bed.

Mr McGrath said Mr Donnelly has read the report and will respond to it, adding: “In broad terms, he and the Government accept the HIQA report and what HIQA is saying in that report, in particular the points that made around workforce planning, around management, around bed capacity and indeed diagnostics.

“The type of individual examples that you have highlighted – that your colleagues highlighted – are not acceptable to the Government and are not acceptable to the HSE, so we do need to do better.” 

He said demand on hospital services has increase because of Covid-19, RSV, flu and Strep A. He said the HSE needs to examine where best practices are happening and how that can be replicated around the country.

“Of course some of it will come down to investment. It will come down to capacity, beds and staffing but also comes down to effective management,” the Fianna Fáil minister added.

INMO general secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha, said the report “compounds” its warnings about hospitals under pressure due to capacity issues and unsafe staffing.

“The report is particularly stark when it comes to safe staffing in our hospitals,” she added.

“According to HIQA, of the seven emergency departments they inspected, only one hospital was properly staffed. This is unacceptable.

“We know that many nurses are leaving emergency departments because of the conditions that they are faced with. This phenomenon cannot continue into 2023.

“Over 70% of the hospitals that HIQA inspected were over capacity. This is borne out in the INMO trolley watch figures.

“Today alone over 638 patients were without a bed with many patients facing long waits before being admitted to a trolley. We know that excess time spent on a trolley or an inadequate bed has negative health implications for patients.” 

She said the INMO has sought an urgent meeting with Mr Donnelly.

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