More operations cancelled, as trolley figures rise to 551
Patients on public waiting lists had their non-urgent operations cancelled again in several hospitals across the country as the numbers on trolleys waiting for a bed rose to 551.
University Hospital Limerick, which had 55 patients on trolleys yesterday morning, had to transfer patients to Ennis General, Nenagh Hospital and St John's Hospital in Limerick.
Beaumont Hospital and Galway University Hospital were also badly hit by overcrowding - as the serious shortage of beds meant no respite from crammed conditions which have persisted since the beginning of the year.
An advertising campaign is to begin, to encourage more patients with problems such as broken bones to go minor injuries units and local injury units. These are under-utilised by many people who are enduring long waits in 24-hour emergency departments.
Hospitals said factors contributing to the increase in pressure within emergency departments include an older age profile of patients along with the "complexity of illness and other issues".
Health Minster Leo Varadkar, who met with hospital managers in Dublin on Monday, said a range of measures have been agreed in a bid to alleviate the congestion.
But more than 700 delayed- discharge patients who need transfer to a nursing home or a home-care package were still effectively "trapped" in hospital wards this week.
The proposed alleviation measures include:
* The opening of 173 short stay public beds across the country for a three-month period in response to potential additional admissions arising from the current flu virus.
These include Cuan Ross in Dublin, with the first 10 opening next week; Fairview in Dublin, Farranlea Road in Cork, Galway, and Ballinasloe. Twenty-four private nursing home beds will come on stream in Drogheda from this week.
* Arrangements are in place in the HSE to recruit frontline staff where it has been established that there is an urgent service requirement.
Both the day and night shift nursing complements have increased in Beaumont, while 70 nursing posts have been agreed for the University of Limerick Hospital Group; 22 agency nurse conversions, 66 nursing posts, and additional healthcare assistant posts for Drogheda; and 39 posts for Naas.
* Staff rosters are taking account of leave entitlements to ensure continuity of care.
l A further 65 beds will be opened on a phased basis from April in Mount Carmel, with plans for rehabilitation beds to be opened in Louth County Hospital later this month. Up to 300 overflow beds have already been opened.
* Community intervention teams have been introduced in Naas and in Drogheda. These have proved very effective at helping people to avoid hospital admission or to avail of early discharge, by managing their medical needs at home.
* Patients with private health insurance will be diverted to private hospitals where consultants have admitting rights, and patients transferred from acute hospitals to hospitals which manage non-complex care when they have been medically stabilised.
* Hospitals have been asked to ensure that arrangements are made to continue discharging patients throughout the weekend.
* Hospitals which do not have an emergency department will be utilised where possible to take the pressure off .