Tuesday 11 December 2018

Numbers on trolleys in hospital A&Es at 'national emergency' levels

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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The number of patients waiting for a bed in hospital A&Es yesterday soared to "national emergency" levels, with many enduring delays of over 24 hours on a trolley.

There were 494 patients on trolleys - just one short of when overcrowding was deemed an emergency in 2006 by former Health Minister Mary Harney.

Hospitals in Galway, Tullamore, Limerick, Cork, Mullingar and Kilkenny were struggling to care for patients in cramped conditions.

Health Minister Simon Harris had to get a €195m bailout to cover a range of health service overruns, including €30m for hospitals. This was despite earlier claims they would have to stay within budget in 2017.

He blamed some private patients for refusing to allow public hospitals to bill their insurance company for their care. This is in response to a campaign by health insurance companies urging members not to pay for their accommodation if they are in a public ward.

It means the level of private income has fallen, Mr Harris said.

Some €10m of the funds will go to reduce hospital waiting lists, he added.

Meanwhile, the three children's hospitals in Dublin have reported a surge in young patients with a serious respiratory virus.

The outbreak of RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), the most common cause of pneumonia in children under the age of one, is causing major patient delays.

Parents are being urged not to bring their child to Our Lady's Hospital Crumlin, Temple Street or Tallaght Hospital if they have a minor or non-urgent complaint and to see their GP instead.

The increase in cases has led to a dramatic rise in attendances and admissions to the three hospitals and it has been particularly bad this week. A statement from the hospitals said there is a particular increase in young children and infants presenting with respiratory infections, in particular RSV.

"While this occurs every winter, the increase in presentations to our emergency departments has been more significant this season.

"Some babies and children with this virus can become very unwell requiring supportive treatment and prolonged hospital admissions.

"Based on previous infection control data it is anticipated that this virus will continue to be at peak levels for the next three to four weeks."

The three A&Es are open but patients can expect delays.

Meanwhile, the decision to name the new national children's hospital as Phoenix Children's Hospital Ireland is set to be reviewed following threats of legal action by the Phoenix Children's Hospital in Arizona over possible confusion. Mr Harris said he will consider the name in advance of legislation establishing the new entity in law to run the new hospital.

Irish Independent

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