UNIVERSITY Hospital Limerick (UHL) has not yet shared information about how the national €26 million ‘Winter Ready’ plan will impact on the numbers of patients waiting on trolleys in the emergency department.
Last week, the HSE announced additional funding to help ease the pressure on hospitals as winter takes hold and more sick people arrive for emergency treatment and admission.
Most of the €26 million is earmarked to provide step-down measures such as nursing home care and home-care support packages, which would free up acute hospital beds.
At time of going to press, there were 75 admitted patients waiting for in-hospital beds on trolleys or in overflow areas, according to figures provided by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).
And they have warned that the HSE’s plan will not have an impact without extra staff.
The union said that while extra funds were welcome, the ongoing recruitment pause meant that it would be impossible to staff any additional services.
In particular, they pointed to extra community services as vital to reducing hospital admissions but questioned where the staffing for such services would come from.
The HSE’s plan predicts that nearly four per cent more patients will attend emergency departments this winter compared with last. Yet despite this projected growth, HSE figures show that there are 400 fewer staff nurses and midwives than December last year working in the HSE.
Meanwhile, Limerick Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea told the Limerick Post that never before have so many elderly people waited on trolleys for over 24 hours at UHL.
He was commenting on figures that show 1,640 people aged over 75 have waited on trolleys or chairs in the emergency department at UHL since the start of the year. In October alone the number of over 75s waiting more than 24 hours was 191.
“These figures represent a serious indictment of Fine Gael’s management of the public hospital system. It is a disgrace that UHL had 1,640 people aged over 75 left on trolleys for longer than 24 hours out of a figure of 13,466 for the entire country,” said Deputy O’Dea.
“Never before has that many elderly people waited on trolleys for more than 24 hours. This is a damning indictment of a Government that is destroying our public healthcare system. We were promised action. We were promised investment. We were assured this would never happen again.
“We now live in a country where a 74-year-old woman, having spent 72 hours on a trolley, was found on the floor screaming in pain with a broken hip following an assault from a drunken patient. The idea of a 74-year-old woman spending 72 hours on a trolley should be the most shocking part of that sentence.
“The solutions are there – get to safe staffing levels for nurses, equip GPs to treat people at home or in their communities, open the diagnostics suites longer, ensure that home care packages are in place, so patients can be safely discharged, back to their own homes where they can be safe and comfortable.
“It’s ironic that these figures come to light at the same time that the Government publish the annual HSE Winter Plan. It is unlikely to make any impact on the overcrowding that we see on a daily basis, as it’s Winter all year long,” he said.