University Hospital Limerick (UHL) ended the year with an unwanted record of having the highest number of patients unable to access beds during 2017.
Heading into the final weekend of the year, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) trolley and ward watch figures showed UHL with the highest annual number of 8,869 patients who were forced to wait on trolleys or in makeshift beds.
The Limerick figures were considerably worse than Cork University Hospital and University Hospital Galway which recorded 6,815 and 6,563 respectively. The Mater University Hospital was the most overcrowded hospital in Dublin with 5,238 patients on trolleys during 2017.
Overall, throughout 2017 a total of 98,981 admitted patients were recorded as awaiting a hospital bed.
Newly appointed INMO General Secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha called on the HSE to explain how the predictable increases in emergency department admissions remain outside of the scope of hospitals to manage and control.
“Overcrowding in late December and early January is getting worse. Despite investment in winter plans, smaller hospitals are now severely overcrowded which is manifestly unsafe and leads to higher cross infection and poorer outcomes for patients.
“Nursing staff, constantly working in this high pressure, unsafe environment, cannot be expected to put up with this obvious neglect of duty of care to them and the patients they try to care for any longer.
“It appears to me, that staff and patients, on the front line, were abandoned while the system shutdown for Christmas and the New Year,” she declared.
Ms Ni Sheaghdha, who takes over the role of Co-Chair of the HSE emergency department task force, said there is a system of de-escalation which is mandatory for hospitals to follow, before spreading overcrowding to the entire hospital.
She claimed that this system was abandoned during the Christmas period.
“Our figures show that on December 28 and 29, eleven of the 29 hospitals used their full capacity protocol and placed additional patients on wards. Under HSE policy, the Joint Chairs of the Task Force must be notified in advance of use of Full Capacity Protocol.
“I can confirm that no notification was provided, by any hospital, to me and that is proof enough to demonstrate an abandonment of the system for dealing with overcrowding. Immediate and dramatic action is now required if further misery and yet again, record-breaking overcrowding levels, are to be avoided as the New Year dawns,” she concluded.
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