Sunday 24 March 2019

668 on trolleys as HSE call for €881m more is rejected

A patient on a trolley in a corridor at St Vincent’s Hospital
A patient on a trolley in a corridor at St Vincent’s Hospital

Trolleys were still stacked up in hospitals across the country yesterday, as 668 patients were left waiting for a bed.

The number of people stuck outside wards was again at a dangerous level, just nine fewer than the record high of 677 earlier this month.

Among the worst-hit hospitals was St Vincent's in Dublin, where 45 patients were on trolleys yesterday morning.

University Hospital Limerick had 60 patients waiting for a bed and others also were overwhelmed at Cork University Hospital and Letterkenny Hospital.

A spokeswoman for the Limerick hospital said relief measures reduced the number on trolleys to 19 by 2pm. New flu cases "are presenting on a daily basis, and there are currently 15 positive cases," she added.

Speaking in the Dail yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar reiterated that better management, proper clinical leadership, real accountability and proper responsibility were needed from the people in charge of managing the health services.

However, he rejected a demand from the Health Service Executive (HSE) for another €881m in funding this year.

The long-awaited Department of Health-commissioned report calling for nearly 2,600 extra acute hospital beds by 2031 was discussed by the Cabinet yesterday, but no decision was made on how fast their implementation will be phased.

The first signal will be in the upcoming National Development Plan.

The report warned that if reforms are not made with less reliance on hospitals, the number of beds needed will be as high as 7,000.


The extra beds - which could cost around €1m each when all elements are included - need to be boosted with a 48pc rise in the primary care workforce, 13,000 more nursing home beds and a 120pc increase in home care support, it said.

The report also says that hospitals currently operate at 95pc, leaving them with no surge capacity when overcrowding hits.

This must be tackled in the short term, it warns.

Health Minster Simon Harris said that investment and reform must go hand in hand if we are to break the cycle of hospital overcrowding.

"We know we have entered a relatively new phase of demographic ageing in Ireland. Our population also continues to grow. These changes will have particular impacts on the demand as older age groups are the high users," he added.

It comes as a new study revealed simply breathing out is enough to spread the flu virus.

Even without an infected person sneezing and coughing, the virus, which has already led to 24 deaths in Ireland this winter, can pose a risk to others.

The findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that people with flu generate infectious aerosols - tiny droplets that stay suspended in the air for a long time - particularly during the first days of illness.

The study reinforces the need for people who have flu symptoms to stay at home and remain out of the workplace.

Researchers assessed the flu virus in 142 individuals who were confirmed to have the illness. They took samples from each participant during the first three days after their symptoms emerged.

The team was able to use viable data from 218 samples of exhaled breath and 218 "nasopharyngeal swabs", where samples are taken through the nose or the back of the nose and throat.

The samples of exhaled breath included samples taken during natural breathing, spontaneous coughs and sneezes.

Nearly half had traces of the infectious virus.

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