Cork TDs call on Government for ‘radical action’ on health crisis

Today there are 48 patients on trolleys at CUH, and 17 at MUH.
Cork TDs call on Government for ‘radical action’ on health crisis

CORK TDs have called on the Government to take “radical action” on the current crisis in hospitals, as overcrowding continues to put significant pressure on the country’s health system. Pic; Larry Cummins

CORK TDs have called on the Government to take “radical action” on the current crisis in hospitals, as overcrowding continues to put significant pressure on the country’s health system.

Sinn Féin TD for Cork South Central Donnchadh Ó’Laoghaire said the health service is being held together by the goodwill and hard labour of healthcare workers who he said are battling crises day in, day out.

“Overcrowding was declared a ‘national emergency’ in 2006 but it has been allowed to become the new normal. But it is not normal, it is a national disgrace,” he said.

It comes as hospitals across Cork continue to experience high numbers on trolleys, with a total of 75 patients waiting on trolleys at Cork University Hospital (CUH) and the Mercy University Hospital (MUH) on Thursday.

At CUH, there were a total of 52 patients on trolleys, 42 of whom were waiting on trolleys at the emergency department and 10 of whom were waiting on trolleys in wards elsewhere in the hospital.

At MUH, there were 23 patients waiting on trolleys at the ED, according to the latest INMO TrolleyWatch figures.

Today there are 48 patients on trolleys at CUH, and 17 at MUH.

'Alleviate pressure'

Deputy Ó’Laoghaire said Government must make greater use of all public and private healthcare infrastructure to alleviate pressure on the public system in the short term.

“Sinn Féin has a multi-annual plan to increase public bed numbers, including more acute inpatient and sub-acute hospital beds and community step-down beds to speed up admissions and discharges to meet rising demand and demographic change, and to expedite the development of elective centres,” he said.

Deputy Thomas Gould said this winter must be “a watershed moment” in ending what he described as a constant crisis in our hospitals.

He said the situation in Cork hospitals is “scandalous” and described the overcrowding as “inhumane, unsafe, and undignified”.

Fianna Fáil TD Pádraig O’Sullivan said there is a wave of illnesses impacting Europe at present and that the issue is not only being experienced in Ireland.

“This issue isn’t just here in Ireland. Britain’s NHS is struggling, France is struggling, and many Nordic countries are similar to us. RSV, Covid and flu together have presented significant challenges to all our health services.

“That aside, there are still huge issues with bed capacity here. This is something we need to address. There are also questions about how HSE management manages these challenges.

“Some hospitals fared far better than others. Some hospitals have demonstrated a capacity to keep patients off trolleys and to ensure orderly discharges. We need to utilise their experience in hospitals where the challenges are not being dealt with as efficiently,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael’s spokesperson on health Colm Burke questioned the HSE on its handling of communication and planning with nursing homes in relation to the use of private nursing home beds to increase the number of discharges from hospitals.

Speaking on Tuesday at an Oireachtas Health Committee discussion on the current challenges facing public hospitals, Deputy Burke referred to Nursing Home Ireland’s survey which confirmed approximately 70% of the country’s 440 private and voluntary nursing homes have the capacity to facilitate discharges from hospitals and asked the interim Chief Executive of the HSE Stephen Mulvany why these beds are not being used.

The survey was responded to by 210 nursing homes in recent weeks, of which 147 (70%) stated they are in a position to receive discharges from hospitals. Within those homes, 760 beds are available. 63 nursing homes (30%) stated they are not in a position to receive discharges from hospitals.

Deputy Burke said he had contacted a number of nursing homes over the past three weeks and said not one of them had been contacted by the HSE in the previous eight weeks.

“The calls only appeared to start happening once Nursing Homes Ireland published their survey, so I don’t understand why we had a backlog of people signed out by the doctors, being discharged, and there was the mechanism in place to get them into nursing homes or step-down facilities. So, why weren’t the nursing homes involved in planning?” Mr Mulvany said he would be surprised if there was a nursing home that hadn’t had contact either from a hospital or a CHO regularly.

“Every single extra private nursing home bed that we can get access to prevent someone being delayed is of value, there’s no doubt about that.” Mr Mulvany argued, however, that matching the individual patient to the individual bed is sometimes more complicated.

“You may find in some cases that the nursing home is not in a position to take the particular patient so it depends on where is the nursing home, where is the patient, where is the patient’s original home and family home, can they be visited, and is the nursing home set up to deal with their particular needs, yes or no?”

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