Hospitals forced to ban hot meals for patients languishing on trolleys
Overcrowded hospitals have been forced to stop giving hot meals to patients who are left on trolleys waiting for a bed.
The ban on hot meals is for the patients' safety due to the potential accidents that could happen if the plates or bowls of food overturned.
St James's Hospital in Dublin, the largest hospital in the State, confirmed that it cannot provide these trolley patients with hot meals before being moved to a ward.
A spokeswoman for the hospital told the Herald that "all patients in our Emergency Department receive suitable meals throughout the day as clinically permitted and as required".
"The hospitals do not provide hot meals to patients awaiting admission in the Emergency Department due to patient safety concerns," she added.
"The hospital has been dealing with exceptional pressures and congestion and our aim is always to get a patient from the Emergency Department to an inpatient bed as soon as possible."
Overcrowded University Hospital Limerick has also had to stop serving hot meals in the ED.
A hospital spokeswoman said it understands the "important role that nutrition and hydration plays in the care of patients and in their recovery".
"Where a patient is able to sit up and following clinical advice, they are offered food and drink at meal times, typically this is sandwiches and tea or coffee," she added.
"It is not possible to provide hot meals in the environment, as patients waiting on trolleys do not have an appropriate surface and hot food could pose a health and safety hazard.
"However, once admitted to a ward, if a patient has missed their meal an alternative is organised for them."
The ban means patients ,who could be on a trolley in various hospitals for days during the worst of the trolley crisis, will not have a hot meal.
Other hospitals say they continue to serve the hot meals in EDs, including Beaumont, Tallaght, Galway and Cork.
St Vincent's Hospital did not respond.
Hospital food has been the subject of inspections in recent years by the patient safety body, the Health Information and Quality Authority.
A spokeswoman for the watchdog said a review of nutrition and hydration care in public acute hospitals in May 2016 states that hospitals must ensure that their patients' fundamental nutrition and hydration care needs are met without exception.
The advice states that patients who are deemed admitted but are waiting for a hospital bed to become available should have their individual dietary needs catered for. They should be offered a hot meal option, which should be appropriate to the time of day that it is served.
Meanwhile, there were 500 patients on trolleys across the country yesterday waiting for a bed, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).
University Hospital Limerick was the most congested, with 66 patients waiting for a bed.
St Luke's Hospital, Kilkenny, was also under pressure, with 42 patients on trolleys, while 41 were on trolleys in University Hospital Galway.
"As predicted, the trolley figures are on the rise again following the bank holiday weekend," said INMO general secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha.
"Hospitals are still in crisis and we are now calling on the HSE to continue curtailment of services to ensure figures do not escalate again this week and to allow hospitals to deal with the current high numbers.
"The INMO has sought confirmation that all hospitals are adhering to the escalation policy and will be advising again regarding the health and safety obligations of the employer in situations where workplaces are overcrowded and pose risks to staff. There has been little respite for hospitals since early January."