First winter flu death as numbers waiting on A&E trolleys rise again
The first flu death this winter has been reported, as struggling hospital emergency departments teemed with patients on trolleys again yesterday.
The numbers on trolleys rose to 401 after falling to 371 on Thursday.
Connolly Hospital in Health Minister Leo Varadkar's Dublin West constituency was worst hit as 41 waited for a bed.
Doctors fear a rise in flu cases will increase the risk to many elderly patients, in particular in clogged A&E departments although the spread of the virus remained low in the week after Christmas.
People aged over 65 are suffering the highest rate of flu infections and there is particular concern this year because the vaccine does not match all the strains of flu circulating.
Although this may affect the effectiveness of the A(H3N2) component of the vaccine, the current jab is likely to provide protection against infection by other flu viruses which are now circulating.
Hospitals in Galway, Letterkenny, Limerick, Drogheda and Cork were overflowing with patients on trolleys and chairs yesterday.
Beaumont Hospital had 37 patients jammed into its emergency department and wards as angry nurses staged a lunchtime protest over the dangerous conditions.
Several patients who were well enough to join the protest braved the January weather, including one man who had suffered several heart attacks and had endured a long wait for a bed. The nurses are to begin a work to rule on January 27 with colleagues in other hospitals also taking industrial action.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health and the HSE have refused to say who was in attendance at the pre-Christmas meeting of the Emergency Department Task Force.
Some doctor groups said they were unable to attend because it was called at such short notice.
Questions are now being asked about how worthwhile calling the meeting was in view of the poor preparation for this week's A&E influx.