INMO lash back at Health Minister’s trolley count comments

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly

NURSES representatives have lashed back at remarks made by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly about the manner in which the number of admitted patients waiting for in-hospital beds are counted.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Six One News, the Minister said that the number recorded on Tuesday’s Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) Trolley Watch count – 574 across the country – did not match the HSE’s own count for that day (395).

The Minister claimed that this was because the INMO count includes “patients who are in surge bed capacity in fully-staffed wards”.

Responding to comments by the Minister questioning the validity of the INMO’s long-standing TrolleyWatch, an INMO spokesperson said: “The INMO has counted the number of admitted patients on trolleys, chairs and other inappropriate bed spaces since 2006. The methodology has not changed in the last 18 years. These figures are widely accepted as an accurate picture of the state of overcrowding in Irish hospitals.”

The spokesperson said nurses’ union “strongly refutes any suggestion that the TrolleyWatch figures are not accurate”.

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“In an effort to deflect from the true state of overcrowding in Irish hospitals, the Minister for Health and the CEO of the HSE have in recent days sought to allude that the INMO is not presenting an accurate trolley count.

“The HSE in its own trolley count is now categorising patients differently and not counting patients on trolleys who have been allocated a bed pending another person’s discharge. The intent of this is to present better figures, which should be unacceptable to the public.

“Rather than try discredit the work of nurses and their long-standing trolley count, the Minister for Health and senior decision-makers within the HSE should focus on providing an improvement to the dire overcrowding situation in Irish hospitals,” the spokesperson added.

Asked whether the constant congestion is being caused by capacity or failure to reform, the Minister said that staff at UHL, when he met them, impressed upon him “that they need more beds  and staff”, both of which are currently being supplied, he claimed.

“But I am not yet satisfied that some of the hospitals most under pressure are running the practices we see in Portlaoise, Tullamore, Waterford, and other places.”.

The Minister said there are special teams in place in hospitals to help advance this but “it’s not just a question of capacity”.