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New overcrowding record as 150 on trolleys in UHL

Record numbers of admitted patients are waiting on trolleys in the Emergency Department and on hospital wards at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) for the second day in a row.

A total of 150 patients are without a hospital bed at UHL today, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), the highest figures since they began recording their trolley watch lists in 2006.

The number stood at 138 yesterday, with 132 recorded on 22 January.

According to the Health Service Executive’s own figures from its daily Emergency and Urgent care list, 103 patients were waiting on trolleys at 8am at UHL, 47 were on trolleys in the ED and a further 56 were spread across wards in the hospital; 32 of these were waiting more than 24 hours and 12 of those were aged 75 or over.

The University Hospital Limerick group has said that elective procedures at UHL are reviewed on a daily basis because of overcrowding, and minor elective procedures are being postponed because beds in their day surgery and cardiology wards are being used as part of their surge capacity.

This is also having a knock on impact on elective procedures at its hospitals in Ennis and Nenagh where day beds are also needed. The group has confirmed that 88 elective procedures at Nenagh hospital have now been cancelled from the beginning of the year up to last Friday.

The HSE said that overall there are exceptionally high attendances at EDs around the country, as well as very high levels of hospital admissions.

The INMO said that this morning there were 710 admitted patients waiting for a hospital bed at hospitals around the country, including 60 at Cork University Hospital, 41 at St Vincent’s Hospital and 25 across the three children’s hospital in Dublin.

The HSE’s figures show there 407 admitted patients in emergency departments, with 143 in wards, waiting for a bed.

Daily congestion

The INMO has once again called for measures to be put in place in the hospital to improve patient flow to relieve the now daily congestion at the hospital.

INMO Assistant Director of Industrial Relations for the Midwest and Western regions Mary Fogarty said that overcrowding records have been broken three times in the space of two weeks in UHL.

“Today being a new high with over 150 people admitted to the hospital without a bed. Since the beginning of January over 2,573 patients have been admitted to UHL without a bed.

“These patients, no matter what their condition is, are placed on trolleys in all available spaces, on public corridors of the hospital, on ward corridors and in the Emergency Department leading to a completely congested hospital with no patient movement to access an in-patient bed.”

She said the levels of persistent overcrowding are having a very damaging impact on the morale of the nursing staff in the hospital who are trying their best to provide safe patient care in an extremely trying environment.

“INMO members have repeatedly highlighted the conditions as unacceptable and dangerous for patients. When overcrowding is out of control it is simply impossible to maintain patient safety and dignity.

“The HSE and UHL Hospital Group must take targeted measures immediately to protect working nurses in these departments and wards.

“Reassuring words are not enough, describing how bad it is on the Dooradoyle campus is not enough, we need to see lasting measures to alleviate the constant levels of overcrowding.”

Ms Fogarty said the people of the Midwest, the nursing staff and their healthcare colleagues must be supported by patient management measures that have been adopted successfully in other locations such as University Hospital Waterford and investment in long-term care and step-down facilities must be prioritised.

“HSE management and policy-makers must accept that overcrowding at this level is unfortunately extremely dangerous and detrimental for some patients.

“Elective and emergency cannot be provided in chaotic overcrowded circumstances. Decisions must be made that keep patients safe and protect staff from ever increasing exposure to outpouring of public frustration and anger,” she said.

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Health David Cullinane expressed alarm at the spike in the number of patients on trolleys, saying the Government is failing to tackle persistent and worsening hospital overcrowding.

He said it was “incredible” that the Government has yet to fund the 1,500 hospital beds that are needed.

He said 1,000 hospital beds are needed to address overcrowding “right now”, while up to 500 additional beds are needed every year according to the ESRI.

“This morning’s INMO trolley watch count is another stark reminder of this Government’s failure to tackle the trolley crisis.

“These figures may no longer seem shocking to those in Government because they are far too high every day. But we cannot allow hospital overcrowding to become normalised. It is not normal.

“The minister and Government need to urgently fund the 1,500 rapid build beds. They must also invest in community healthcare alternatives in pharmacies, GP care, and home care,” he said.

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