Wednesday 16 January 2019

Extra hospital beds to ease crisis will not be open for several weeks

Simon Harris
Simon Harris

The extra hospital beds promised by Health Minister Simon Coveney will not be open for several weeks, it has emerged.

The trolley crisis eased slightly yesterday, but there were still 508 people waiting for admission, down from the record 612 people listed last Thursday.

Hospitals continue to endure dangerously-full emergency departments across the country, with 33 waiting at St Vincent's Hospital and 20 at Beaumont.

University Hospital Limerick continued to struggled to care for 44 patients who needed a bed, and Cork University Hospital was also suffering severe congestion for the second week in a row.


However, it emerged that several of the extra beds announced by Mr Harris as part of a package of measures in response to the crisis cannot be rolled out for now.

Hospitals waiting for the extra beds include the Mater in Dublin, St Luke's in Kilkenny and Tullamore Hospital.

These include beds promised as far back as September in the "winter initiative" plan, which was supposed to avert a crisis.

Twelve of those 55 beds are still idle.

Eleven of the additional beds announced last week, as hospitals reached meltdown, will also not be opened until next month.

All the beds are dependent on having enough nursing staff to cater to the patients who will be placed in them.

University Hospital Galway has been allocated more funding than originally planned to open 28 beds because it could not be used elsewhere due to a lack of staff.

Health Minister Simon Harris has said he was "more than sorry" about the gridlock facing the health services.

"We have many good managers across the health service, but others need to do better and there are structures in place for this which must be followed," he said.

Patients and hospital staff are braced for weeks of overcrowding, with the risk of another major spike in attendances as temperatures plummet.

There were 174 patients waiting more than nine hours for a bed yesterday morning compared with 159 on the same day two years ago, according to HSE figures.

A report on the toll taken by the winters flu shows it officially claimed the lives of 84 patients and hospitalised 1,856 over the 2016-17 period.

The flu circulated for around 10 weeks. A particularly troublesome virus is circulating this winter which can cause a hacking cough.

The severe symptoms can be suffered by people who catch the adenovirus.

It can infect the airways and the intestinal tract, with common complications like pneumonia and meningitis.

It can be potentially severe for people with lowered immunity.

Meanwhile, efforts will begin tomorrow to avert industrial action by nurses from next month.

They are demanding added incentives to encourage more nurses to apply for jobs in the health service and relieve shortages.

Exploratory talks are to take place between the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and the HSE .


The nurses have balloted by a margin of 90pc for action that could be triggered at the beginning of next month.

It would initially involve a work-to-rule and see nurses refuse to be redeployed.

This would mean that if there is a shortage in the emergency department, they could not be moved from another ward to make up for the shortage.

Meanwhile, the nurses' union last night warned that its members in Cavan will engage in industrial action if the HSE goes ahead with a plan to move patients from Cavan Hospital to Virginia community nursing unit.

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