System 'at breaking point' as over 51,000 on trolleys in first six months of year
The number of people left waiting on trolleys in hospitals in the first half of the year was the highest on record.
Figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) show 51,321 patients, who were deemed sick enough to be in a hospital ward, were on trolleys in emergency departments or other areas of hospitals in the first six months of this year.
The figures show that hospital overcrowding is at its worst level since records began more than a decade ago.
Hospitals that are in the grip of a rise in patients on trolleys include the Mater Hospital, Tallaght Hospital and St James's Hospital in the capital.
In the first six months of 2017, 1,836 people were recorded on trolleys in Beaumont Hospital, although this was down significantly on the 3,918 recorded in the same period in 2016.
In the Mater Hospital, however, the figure waiting on trolleys has risen from 2,265 in the first six months of 2016 to 2,864 for the same period in 2017.
Tallaght Hospital recorded 2,616 people on trolleys in the first six months of 2017, up from 2,290 on the same period last year.
Meanwhile, in St James's Hospital, figures increased significantly from 749 in the first six months of 2016 to 1,425 in the same period of 2017.
This comes as A&E overcrowding is threatening to grip two of Dublin's busiest hospitals - despite the summer weather.
The HSE confirmed yesterday that patient attendances were up 34.4pc in the Mater Hospital and 11pc in Beaumont Hospital in May, according to their own figures.
Health Minister Simon Harris said yesterday that extra staff and beds are needed.
He said 700 new nurses have been hired since the beginning of the year and the target is to employ 1,208 more.
He is also carrying out a bed capacity review, which will be ready in September.
"The population is growing and we are seeing more and more older people and people with chronic illness attending hospital," he said.
The HSE set a target last autumn that no more than 236 should be on trolleys on any day. But, earlier this year, the numbers surged to 612 and, even though it is mid-summer, there were 249 waiting for a bed yesterday.
Fianna Fail health spokesman Billy Kelleher said: "Over the month of June, we saw daily reports of between 300 and 350 people on trolleys across the country.
"From the end of August, these figures will start to increase until we reach the middle of winter, when the figure will be closer to 650.
"Unless action takes place in summer and autumn, we will be back to square one again, with minister Harris wringing his hands in despair and saying next year will be better.
"The minister has been in office for over 12 months and is now approaching his second winter. The health system cannot cope with any further escalation in the number of people on trolleys.
"It's at breaking point, and it urgently needs a minister that comes to the table with solutions and not empty gestures."
This comes as it emerged yesterday prefabs to provide accommodation for patients on the grounds of some of the hospitals suffering record levels of A&E trolley gridlock may not be ready for the winter overcrowding surge.
The prefabs were promised as part of a series of moves to ease the ongoing trolley crisis.
Many hospitals are now locked in a constant "winter crisis" all year round.
Questioned on how far ahead are the plans in hospitals for the much-needed prefabs, a spokeswoman for the HSE said: "There are no definitive plans at the present time in relation to the coming winter months."
Significant "engagement and consultation has and is being undertaken" and the use of prefabs will be considered.