herald

Thursday 14 November 2019

Patients face 'grave risk' after overcrowding hits new high, nurses warn

Simon Harris: Cash injection will help ease trolley crisis
Simon Harris: Cash injection will help ease trolley crisis

More than 100 children in Dublin were forced to wait on trolleys for a hospital bed as October overcrowding reached record levels, causing "grave risk", a union has said.

Nurses warned that the combination of hospital overcrowding and "chronic under-staffing" posed a serious danger to patients.

The gridlock left hospitals running out of beds for 11,452 patients who needed to be admitted to a ward in October.

Figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) showed University Hospital Limerick was worst hit, with 1,450 on trolleys.

Others struggling to accommodate patients were Cork University Hospital, University Hospital Galway, South Tipperary Hospital and Letterkenny Hospital.

The three children's hospitals in Dublin did not escape. Sixty-two children were on trolleys in Temple Street Hospital, 39 in Our Lady's Hospital, Crumlin and six in the National Children's Hospital in Tallaght.

The INMO said the crisis was exacerbated by the recruitment go-slow which has led to 1,300 nursing and midwifery vacancies being unfilled - 284 vacancies are in midwifery.

A spokesman said: "Under- staffing is linked with higher patient mortality and longer stays in hospital.

"The UK's National Institute for Health Research found that when nurse staffing fell below average levels, the risk of death increased by 3pc."

Impacts

In response, the HSE said that by the end of September more than one million people had attended the country's 29 emergency departments, 3pc more than in the same period last year.

Nearly 263,000 were patients admitted for further treatment and care.

The average number of patients experiencing a delayed transfer of care from hospitals each day is 633, a 13pc rise on last year.

This greatly impacts capacity to admit new patients.

Additional funding has been allocated this year for providing more home care.

"The staffing environment of the HSE, and organisations funded by it, is dynamic and is subject to the requirement to operate within the funding envelope provided in line with government policy," the HSE said.

"The vacating of a position can be covered by redeployment, agency or overtime.

"No hospitals are precluded from hiring nurses, and since September 2018 the number of nursing and midwifery staff has increased by 683."

Health Minister Simon Harr-is has said more funding is being targeted at easing the trolley crisis this winter.

"On Budget day, we announced €26m between now and December 31 for winter preparedness," he said.

"From memory, I think this is the largest sum we have allocated for the period from now until December."

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