Hospital overcrowding is at 'worst ever' as 118,367 on trolleys in 2019
Hospital overcrowding is the worst it has ever been as more than 118,000 patients went without a bed in 2019.
End-of-year analysis by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has revealed that 118,367 people waited on trolleys last year, a figure 9pc higher than it was in 2018.
Over 1,300 of the patients were children younger than 16. The worst months were November (12,055), October (11,452), and September (10,641).
The most severely hit hospitals in 2019 included:
:: University Hospital Limerick - 13,941
:: Cork University Hospital - 11,066
:: University Hospital Galway - 7,993
:: South Tipperary General Hospital - 6,942
:: University Hospital Waterford - 6,313
The INMO has said that under-staffing and a lack of capacity were the key drivers of overcrowding in Irish hospitals.
According to INMO general secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha, there are 411 fewer inpatient beds in hospitals now than a decade ago, despite a larger, older population.
"Things are getting worse, not better," she said.
"These figures should be falling, but we're going the wrong direction. Last year saw thousands more patients without proper beds - often at one of the most vulnerable points in their lives.
"Overcrowding used to be a winter problem. Now it's an all-year problem which gets worse in winter.
"The HSE continues to enforce its rigid recruitment controls, starving hospitals and community services of the staff they need.
"This year should be a year where under-staffing and overcrowding are brought under control, but that simply won't happen without investment and an end to the recruitment ban," she said.
The HSE did not respond to the INMO's end-of-year analysis at the time of going to press.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Simon Harris continues to urge people with suspected flu symptoms to avoid going to their GP or attend hospital unless absolutely necessary.
19 people have died from flu so far this season.
This is despite a 50pc increase in the number of people getting the flu jab this year compared with the numbers getting the vaccination over the past four years.
Flu season could last another four to five weeks, according to experts.