Leo Varadkar wants trolleys moved to hospital wards
HEALTH Minister Leo Varadkar said he wants more patients on trolleys moved to hospital wards from overcrowded emergency departments and corridors - even though the situation will still be "unsafe".
The minister returned yesterday from holiday in Florida, as crisis-hit hospitals continued to grapple with 584 patients on trolleys.
He appealed to over-stretched nurses to agree to take two emergency patients, instead of one, per ward.
But there will be little respite for these ill patients - who should be in a bed - as they will continue to have to endure lying on a trolley. However, he insisted the practice is "less unsafe" than leaving them in overrun A&Es.
He admitted he wrongly calculated the annual A&E post Christmas rush would not happen until next week - and the worst may be yet to come.
He was unable to take time out over Christmas because of the tragic court case involving the pregnant clinically dead woman whose family won the right to let her die.
He was visiting relatives in Florida earlier this week as hospitals were plunged into chaos.
Mr Varadkar also revealed he was not aware that HSE hospitals' chief Dr Tony O' Connell was going to resign when he convened a meeting of the Emergency Department Task Force on December 22.
He was informed of Dr O'Connell's departure via a text from HSE director general Tony O'Brien on Monday.
The minister rejected accusations that he took his eye off the ball and failed to properly prepare for the surge which has seen record numbers of patients enduring long delays on trolleys and chairs. "I am sick to death of this problem, quite frankly . . . and I feel a responsibility to them (patients) and their families," he said.
Around €3m was made available to transfer some of the 800 delayed discharge patients to nursing homes and provide home care package before Christmas, he told RTE radio.
But he conceded these supports, designed to free up beds, did not materialise in the numbers needed and this must be investigated.
Although the numbers on trolleys nationwide went down marginally yesterday, from Tuesday's record of 601, several hospitals were even more congested including Galway, Kilkenny, Naas General and Connolly Hospital in Mr Varadkar's own constituency.
Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda was still under siege with 42 patients on trolleys.
Senior doctors also need to be on the ground for longer hours doing basic work such as stitching patients, he said.
The HSE said its priority is to transfer as many of the 800 delayed discharge patients to nursing homes rather than open more beds.
HSE chief Tony O'Brien said efforts are underway to fast track the approval for financial assistance under the Fair Deal nursing home scheme.
Around 700 remain in hospital and just 400 of more than 2,000 closed beds have been opened.
Hospitals are braced for even more disruption the week after next as junior doctors who work in six-month rotating training stints take up new jobs in unfamiliar surroundings.
Nursing Homes Ireland, representing private nursing homes, said a survey yesterday found that more than 1,200 beds were free.
They include 178 beds in Galway, 73 in Limerick and 178 in Dublin.