‘Old bad habits’: Irish hospitals see worst overcrowding since pandemic began

376 admitted patients were without beds across Ireland this morning, the highest figure since March 5th 2020
‘Old bad habits’: Irish hospitals see worst overcrowding since pandemic began

Ireland’s hospitals are today experiencing their worst overcrowding since the Covid-19 pandemic began, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

A total of 376 admitted patients were without beds across Ireland this morning, representing the highest figure since March 5th, 2020.

The union said Ireland’s long-standing trolley crisis is once again “rearing its head” as Covid-19 restrictions ease, as the health service slips back “into old bad habits”.

Frontline staff have reported that infection control and social distancing is compromised when patients are on trolleys in corridors.

INMO President Karen Mc Gowan said: “Although the levels of Covid are reducing, the long-standing trolley crisis is again rearing its head.

“Our members are seriously concerned that we will swing from the Covid crisis back into an overcrowding crisis. They need to know that the HSE will not tolerate overcrowding and ensure that safe staffing levels are implemented.”

Staff redeployed

The INMO warned that redeployment of staff was seeing day services closed or scaled back, putting extra pressure on emergency departments.

It called for a strategy to reduce the volume of staff being redeployed for vaccinations, and advised enabling nursing and midwifery students to become paid vaccinators.

It also called for urgent national intervention in University Hospital Limerick in particular, the hospital worst-affected by overcrowding with 75 patients without beds.

Other hospitals experiencing overcrowding on Tuesday morning included:

  • 31 patients without beds at Letterkenny University Hospital;
  • 30 patients without beds at Cork University Hospital;
  • 24 patients without beds at Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar;
  • 23 patients without beds at South Tipperary General Hospital.

INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha warned that the health service was “slipping back into old bad habits”.

“We have kept trolley figures suppressed for much of the pandemic, but we are slipping back into old bad habits. The HSE cannot allow trolley figures to rise and rise," she said.

“Overcrowding is simply unsafe for patients — especially during a pandemic. It is placing intolerable pressure on an exhausted workforce, who are now working to provide mass vaccinations in addition to a Covid and non-Covid healthcare service.

“The HSE and HIQA need to rapidly intervene in the worst-hit sites, and anything that can be done to ensure key staff are not redeployed must be looked at.

“Covid could be a turning point for the Irish healthcare system. We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past.”

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