Wednesday 26 June 2019

Limerick the worst hospital for patients on trolleys over last five years

UHL emergency department
UHL emergency department
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

UNIVERSITY Hospital Limerick has the worst record for the number of patients on trolleys over the last five years, according to an analysis of data from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.

UHL had a median total of 619 patients on trolleys each month for the period 2013 to 2017. It was closely followed by Beaumont Hospital in Dublin with a figure of 562 patients and University Hospital Galway with 498.

Digging deeper into the figures, however, shows that Beaumont has actually had higher median numbers during the period 2013 to 2015, only for Limerick’s worsening record to catch up and surpass the Dublin hospital overall in the years 2016 to 2017.

The figures around the country reached their highest levels ever recorded in 2017 and have only got worse in 2018, preliminary data shows.

Peak season for trolley numbers is the winter due to increased illness in the general population from flu and other respiratory diseases, with January and February usually recording the highest figures. Again, Limerick comes out top, with a total of 793 patients on trolleys in January 2017, far above the next biggest total of 667 in Cork University Hospital. These figures show a substantial year-on-year rise, with Beaumont recording 710 patients in a year earlier in January 2016 and Limerick dealing with 682 in that month.

Every day, the INMO (Irish Nursing and Midwives Organisation) monitors the total of people who have to be treated on trolleys in corridors or on beds in wards where the official capacity is being exceeded. The organisation gathers the data at 8am every week day for 29 public hospitals around the country to highlight the stress on its members and to put political pressure on the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Government. It has been collecting the information about trolleys since 2004 but in 2013 began to add the numbers of patients in wards above capacity.

The data is published every day on the INMO’s blog known as TrolleyWatch. The HSE publishes its own trolley figures called Trolley Gar, which counts patients at three times during the day but, crucially, excludes patients in wards above capacity.

If the size of the hospital is factored in, however, a different picture emerges of trolley figures. Using data gathered from the HSE, which supplied the number of beds available in each hospital, the Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore is shown to have by far the highest ratio of patients on trolleys for 2013 to 2017 relative to the overall capacity of the facility. South Tipperary General Hospital and Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise have the next highest ratios.

The HSE bed figures are accurate to February 23, 2018, and reflect a growing investment by the Government in availability of places in hospitals. But as the data show, it is far from enough to deal with the annual spike in demand due to winter illness.

* This report was produced in conjunction with UCD Data Journalism 

Irish Independent

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