Hospitals set new targets for number of trolley patients
Hospital emergency departments have been set daily targets that mean some of the worst hit should have no more than six patients who need a bed on trolleys.
Other hospitals have been given targets which would see as few as two patients on trolleys.
The new targets were agreed at a meeting of the emergency department implementation group yesterday attended by Health Minister Leo Varadkar and HSE chief Tony O'Brien.
Mr Varadkar said there should be no more than 70 patients on trolleys on a given day and the HSE has set a target of 64. Yesterday, 243 patients were on trolleys.
Hospitals which can have more than 25 patients on trolleys in the morning - such as Beaumont and Tallaght in Dublin and University Hospital Limerick - have been given a target of just six patients on trolleys. Sligo Hospital and Waterford Hospital should have no more than five.
If the hospitals reach a certain threshold of patients on trolleys, they must trigger an escalation plan with a number of possible actions including cancelling admission of patients on surgical waiting lists.
There will also be zero tolerance for having any patient on a trolley for more than nine hours after they have been deemed sick enough to be admitted to a ward. Persistent breaches of the nine-hour limit will see hospitals fined €10,000.
Fergal Hickey, spokesman for emergency consultants, said once a decision is made to place a patient in a ward, it should happen at that point. "There should be zero tolerance of having any patient on a trolley after that."
A HSE spokesman said there were "encouraging trends" in the first half of December with a 13pc drop on this time last year in the number of people on trolleys.
The INMO, the nurses' union, pointed out that hospitals would no longer be fined for failing to meet waiting time targets, provided they were compliant with the revised escalation policy for trolleys.