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Still waiting for beds

Wednesday, 19th April, 2017 10:04am

More must be done to address hospital overcrowding, nurses have warned.

New figures show that hospitals in Galway are continuing to come under increased pressure, with a record number of patients left lying on trolleys last month.

An analysis of Trolley Watch figures, carried out by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) for the months of March 2006-2017, found that 2017 showed the highest ever figure for that month. 

In total, 9,459 patients, who were admitted for in-patient care, found themselves on trolleys across the country in March.

University Hospital Galway (UHG) saw a significant surge in trolley numbers in March 2017 with 638 people left waiting for a bed -  a rise of 99 on 2016’s March figure which stood at 539.

Portiuncula Hospital Ballinasloe also recorded a major rise. 86 patients were on trolleys in March 2016, however this rose to 259 in March of this year.

Cork University Hospital (CUH) recorded the highest figures for last month, with 716 patients left waiting for a bed. This was followed by University Hospital Limerick (699) and UHG (638).

Commenting on the figures, INMO General Secretary Liam Doran described them as “very disappointing”.

“While progress has been made in a number of hospitals, severe overcrowding is still being experienced in many hospitals around the country. The Winter Initiative Plan included extra acute beds, transitional care beds and step down beds as well as additional homecare packages and the expansion of community intervention teams.”

He continued, “Unfortunately, as outlined by the INMO at the time, the plan, by failing to address the difficulties in recruiting and retaining nursing staff, ran the risk of falling short, in terms of implementation. Additional services, either in terms of acute beds, step-down beds and/or community intervention teams are dependent on there being additional nursing staff.”

Mr Doran said that the “stark reality” is that the current demand cannot be met now or in the future without nurses and midwives.

He added that it is “imperative” both patients and staff see an improvement in overcrowding levels in the INMO’s analysis of April figures.

“The recent deal, accepted by members, on staffing/recruitment/retention represents just the first step, in a three year programme, which must see nurse/midwife employment levels increase to over 40,000 from its current level of 35,600. These proposals now fall to be implemented, overseen by a joint high level group, who must ensure nationwide roll out immediately.”

The INMO welcomed the Winter Initiative Plan announced by Minister for Health Simon Harris in September 2016 which had an allocation of an additional funding of €40 million and a maximum target of 236 for the number of patients on trolleys each morning. 

However, according to the organisation, the figures were 82 per cent over the target in March. 

“It is, therefore, clear that the measures taken to date are not enough and more must be done,” the INMO stated.

The crisis of overcrowding, in both Emergency Departments and in-patient wards, will be discussed at the INMO’s forthcoming Annual Delegate Conference in Wexford on 3-5 May.

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