Nine hour wait for kids on hospital trolleys
Two children spent up to nine hours lying on hospital trolleys in Dublin yesterday, the youngest victims of the nationwide trolley crisis.
In total, 12 children had to wait on trolleys for beds in three children's hospitals yesterday morning - with two of them reportedly spending up to nine hours on trolleys at Crumlin Children's Hospital.
The winter trolley crisis raged on at the nation's hospitals, with 592 adults confined to trolleys awaiting beds.
The number represented a fall from the record high on Wednesday of 677 patients on trolleys.
HSE executives said there was a "system-wide challenge this week" in terms of the sheer numbers coming into the nation's hospitals.
Figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) showed there were 414 people on trolleys in hospital emergency departments (EDs), and a further 178 on trolleys or temporary beds in hospital wards, making an overall total of 592.
The highest number of patients on trolleys yesterday was 52, in University Hospital Limerick, consisting of 30 people in EDs awaiting beds and a further 22 on trolleys or temporary beds in wards.
The highest figure in Dublin was in Tallaght Hospital, with 29 on trolleys - six higher than the previous day.
Also badly hit in Dublin was the Mater Hospital, with 23 patients on trolleys in the ED, a rise of three in the previous 24 hours.
St Vincent's Hospital in the capital was also experiencing serious problems, with a total of 21 patients on trolleys in its ED awaiting beds.
Damien McCallion, HSE national director with responsibility for the winter initiative, said much had been done to reduce the high number of patients ending up on trolleys this winter.
There had been a significant reduction in the number of delayed discharge patients in the system but there were still 470 such patients in hospitals in December, compared to 565 last September, he said.
Some 150 hospital beds were being added to the national system this year, most in the first three months.
HSE national director of acute services Liam Woods acknowledged there had been children waiting on trolleys but said it was "very rare".
Dr Colm Henry, HSE national clinical adviser for acute services, said it was particularly "poignant" that children were on trolleys and it "strikes a chord" with the public.
However, he said it was also very serious for older people to be confined to trolleys.
Parents with children with flu-like symptoms were warned to keep them at home when schools open next week to combat an expected surge in influenza infections.
A higher proportion of children than normal are falling victim to the flu this year. This was having a knock-on effect on numbers on trolleys nationwide.
Dr Kevin Kelleher, assistant national director for public health and child health, said the numbers of healthcare workers receiving the flu vaccine had risen to around 38pc in the nation's hospitals and to around 50pc in acute hospitals, which was "a big improvement" on previous years.
When asked about the significant numbers of staff failing to get the vaccine, officials indicated that healthcare workers could not be compelled to receive the vaccination.