Saturday 24 August 2019

Cork University Hospital declared 'Status Black' due huge overcrowding yesterday

Health Minister Simon Harris
Health Minister Simon Harris

Ralph Riegel

HEALTH Minister Simon Harris was warned in a blunt phone call to Cork health chiefs about hospital over-crowding that Ireland's second city needs to be "given a break" and desperately needed extra hospital capacity.

A sudden flood of admissions at Cork University Hospital (CUH) emergency department on Tuesday exerted enormous pressure on the hospital with the situation so serious it was raised in the Dáil.

A 'Status Black' condition was declared - acknowledging that the backlog was threatening to have an impact beyond the emergency department.

CUH, the acute reference hospital for the entire south, had 70 admissions with patients waiting for a bed on Tuesday.

Sinn Féin claimed eight ambulances were outside CUH waiting to transfer patients - one of which was waiting for four hours.

That had dropped to 50 patients yesterday.

However, the overcrowding crisis sparked calls for the Government to act on a long-stalled plan for Cork to receive a new €400m acute hospital to ease pressure on CUH.

This new hospital will operate as an amalgamation of the Mercy University Hospital (MUH) and the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital (SIVUH) and will be built at a greenfield site.

Health Minister Simon Harris contacted Cork health chiefs on Tuesday to determine the cause of the sudden overcrowding problem - and was left in no doubt about what was needed.

"We need to redesign and put capacity back into the system," CUH clinical medical director Mike O'Connor warned.

"We took a call yesterday from the Minister (Simon Harris) who clearly was (asking): 'What the hell was going on in the hospital? What are

you doing?' We were very clear about what we were doing. We were very clear back - crystal clear - that we need to be given a break."

"The people of Cork need to be given a break - give us some capacity back."

Campaigners have warned over the past decade that pressure on CUH is now at acute levels with its Wilton site reaching its maximum development potential.

The centralisation of acute care at CUH over the past 20 years delivered benefits - but health experts warned those benefits have been overtaken by capacity issues posed by the population growth of

Cork and increasing demands from the south west region.

Cork has had six hospitals either close or be subsumed into other facilities since the 1960s.

Two other hospitals, Mallow and Bantry, no longer undertake acute surgery.

The INMO warned that pressure on CUH is now at acute levels.

The Government’s Senator Colm Burke said the need for a second new Cork hospital was identified back in the 1960s – and urgent planning for such a facility now needs to be undertaken.

“St Finbarr’s (Hospital) is effectively gone, the Erinville is gone and the North Infirmary is gone,” he said.

“The Fitzgerald Report back in the 1960s proposed two purpose-built hospitals for Cork. We built one (CUH) but the other was never developed.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tanaiste Simon Coveney included a new Cork acute hospital in the development commitments for Project Ireland 2040.

However, a site for the proposed new hospital not yet even been identified with Cork's docklands, Curraheen and Glanmire being mooted as possible locations.

Others want the sprawling MUH site in the city centre to be chosen for the new facility.

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