Numbers waiting for surgery are soaring
Hospital waiting lists for patients needing surgery or an appointment to see a specialist have soared in the past year.
The most recent figures for April showed that nearly 10,000 were waiting over a year for an operation.
Outpatient waiting lists have also continued to climb above 412,000, and of these 83,347 were facing delays of more than a year.
The ongoing overcrowding in emergency departments and the influx of these patients to wards has been a big factor in thousands of waiting list procedures being postponed, creating a major backlog.
The latest statement from the Association of Emergency Medicine, representing emergency consultants, provided little optimism about any dramatic relief.
It said that the number of patients who need emergency hospital admission, but for whom a hospital bed is not available, continues to rise.
"This is a cause for serious concern. The practice of lodging patients awaiting admission in emergency departments has been consistently shown to be unsafe and contributes to increased mortality and morbidity for patients," said spokesman Fergal Hickey.
He said emergency departments are rendered incapable of functioning safely or efficiently while acting as warehouses for admitted inpatients.
"At this stage no one doubts that this practice is unsafe but in spite of a myriad of investigations, reports, taskforces and repeated promises to solve the problem, crowding continues to worsen. This can only be interpreted as the continued toleration of this unacceptable situation by senior HSE management."
Many hospital managers have chosen to allow emergency departments accommodate too many patients and now share the proble " equally throughout the hospital," said the emergency doctors.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar said yesterday that "overcrowding in our hospitals has eased since January and is trending downwards".
Similarly, the number of delayed discharges - patients who no longer need acute care and are more suitable for home care or a nursing home - has fallen from its peak of 850, but it remains at a figure of about 680, he said.
"At the beginning of April the Government approved additional funds of €74m to reduce delayed discharges by providing €44m to the Fair Deal nursing home scheme, resulting in an additional 1,600 places, and €30m to provide an extra 250 convalescent and rehabilitation beds in community and district hospitals.
"The implementation of these measures has now begun but will take about eight weeks to fully implement.
"As of April 30 there were 575 people on the Fair Deal waiting list with an average wait time of four weeks, down from 11 weeks in January."