Overcrowding in Cork hospitals: Trolleys on wards ‘unsafe’

“The union and our members are very clear that when you put patients on wards on trolleys you actually exacerbate the problem." 
Overcrowding in Cork hospitals: Trolleys on wards ‘unsafe’

Yesterday, there were 83 patients on trolleys waiting for a hospital bed in emergency departments (EDs) across the city and a further seven patients on trolleys in West Cork, according to INMO TrolleyWatch figures.

An Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) Cork representative has said that private beds need to be sourced and other measures taken to maximise discharge rates and alleviate the current level of overcrowding in hospitals. It comes after Health Minister Stephen Donnelly warned that the situation is likely to get worse in the coming weeks.

Yesterday, there were 83 patients on trolleys waiting for a hospital bed in emergency departments (EDs) across the city and a further seven patients on trolleys in West Cork, according to INMO TrolleyWatch figures. Speaking to The Echo, INMO Industrial Relations Officer Liam Conway said decisive action needs to be taken. He also raised concerns about CUH placing trolleys in wards, a move which he said the union is “completely opposed to”.

“In CUH they had 62 patients on trolleys [yesterday] but they’ve also placed trolleys on the wards,” he said. “The union and our members are very clear that when you put patients on wards on trolleys you actually exacerbate the problem. 

"What it actually leads to is unsafe staffing, unsafe care, and only pushing the problem up to the wards.”

Mr Conway said the Government “need to look at sourcing private beds because we do not have enough beds across the country, so we need to engage now with the private hospitals to source private beds”.

He said the Government needs to also look at the number of delayed discharges from hospital which he said is “causing significant issues across the country”, and that all measures and resources need to be put in place to ensure discharge rates are maximised.

Consultants warn numbers could climb further 

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has also expressed concerns over the escalating levels of overcrowding. An IHCA spokesperson said current healthcare experiences were comparable to those at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is not inconceivable that we could see 1,000 admitted patients being treated on trolleys on a single day in the weeks ahead,” the spokesman said. “Public hospital staff are working tirelessly, attempting to provide appropriate levels of care to patients.

“Consultants are on call 24/7, often practising over and above recommended levels, but the reality is there simply aren’t enough of us to meet increased demand. 

"We are still working with 40% less consultant staffing in Ireland, compared to the EU average.

“What compounds this further is the failure of Government to put in place bed and staffing commitments dating back years.

Mr Conway said the huge surge of respiratory illnesses in the community is “compounding overcrowding” and called for a mandate for a short period of time of mask-wearing which he said will break the transmission rates across the community.

Fine Gael’s spokesperson on health Colm Burke suggested that nursing home beds could be utilised to ease the pressures on hospitals.

“At any one time, we have over 600 patients waiting to be discharged from hospital. 

"The question is how can we get them out in a faster time period than what’s taking place at the moment?

“The cost of a hospital bed per week is around €7,500 to €8,000. The cost of a nursing home bed for the public sector is around between €1,650 and €1,750 a week per bed. In the private sector under the Fair Deal, it’s around €1,000 per bed per week.”

Deputy Burke suggested offering nursing homes a set amount each week for the use of additional beds which he said “could fast-track a whole lot of things”.

“That’s just a simple thing that could be done very fast, especially now in the next four to five weeks.”

Mr Conway agreed that the use of private nursing home beds may be another solution to the current situation and said that “every option should be exhausted”.

“I think in relation to the private nursing homes if there are beds available, they should be utilised but the concern in relation to private nursing homes is that a lot of those beds are already full or if there are beds available there might not be the resources in private nursing homes to staff them.”

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