617 patients on trolleys as hospital beds pledge not fulfilled
More than 30 of the promised 75 extra hospital beds to relieve overcrowding remain unopened as the number patients on trolleys surged yesterday to 617 - the highest so far this year.
The overcrowding was worse than January, when 606 patients were waiting.
Worst hit were Cork University Hospital, where 55 were on trolleys, and University Hospital Limerick, which was trying to find beds for 51 patients. South Tipperary General Hospital, which had 48 patients on trolleys, also struggled.
The latest gridlock comes as the €30m funding for the winter initiative, to prevent the trolley crisis from reaching new record levels over Christmas and new year, has run out.
Hospitals now have to carry out more operations on waiting-list patients, which means there are fewer beds available for people coming from emergency departments.
The HSE said yesterday that 43 of 75 planned beds were open, with "the remaining subject to the completion of staff recruitment". A spokeswoman said that while the winter and initiatives were coming to an end, acute hospitals were still seeing growth in attendances not flu-related.
"Many of the patients presenting require longer periods of hospitalisation due to underlying conditions and frailty.
"Therefore, hospitals are focusing on ensuring patient discharges are being planned in advance, early access to diagnostics is available and that senior clinical decision- makers are seeing patients as early as possible to enable those who do not need to be admitted to leave the emergency department as early as possible."
The spokeswoman confirmed the additional funding provided to support the winter initiatives was now complete.
She said the "number of patients attending emergency departments continued to increase year on year.
"While the majority of patients who attend emergency departments receive treatment and are discharged home, 20-30pc of patients need to be admitted to hospital for further treatment and care.
"The number of emergency department attendances this week compared to the same week in the previous year rose from 23,408 to 25,021, representing a 6.9pc increase when comparing 2019 with 2018.
"While the flu season has abated, our hospitals continue to see higher numbers of patients who require isolation and critical care, which impacts on available capacity.
"Our staff in the emergency departments and the wider hospitals work hard to make sure our patients receive the best treatment and care."
The HSE said it regretted any patient should have to wait for admission from emergency department to a hospital ward. "However, it is important to note that once a decision is made to admit a patient, they still remain under the care of the staff in emergency department until they can safely transfer to the appropriate hospital ward for their ongoing care."
The number on emergency department trolleys fell to 320 at 2pm.