Nursing vacancies due to low pay 'will escalate trolley crisis'
The overcrowding crisis in hospitals could escalate this winter unless measures are taken to tackle low pay levels for nurses and midwives, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).
The body has warned that under-staffing will continue to be a problem, as it believes the HSE cannot fill vacancies at current salary rates.
A total of 372 patients were waiting for beds in trolleys or in wards yesterday, which represented a 26pc increase compared with the same date last year, when 295 were waiting.
The INMO has warned that pay levels for nurses and midwives are a major deterrent for those considering applying for these roles and it wants to see the issue tackled in this year's Budget.
The hospitals with the highest numbers yesterday included University Hospital Limerick (UHL) with 46 on trolleys, University Hospital Waterford with 31, and Cork University Hospital with 30.
INMO deputy general secretary David Hughes said the figures remain dangerously high for the summer.
"Our health service is clearly stretched beyond capacity, and winter can only be worse," he said. "At the root of this is under-staffing. At current salaries, the HSE simply cannot fill nursing vacancies. Without a pay rise for nurses and midwives in this budget, the overcrowding will only get worse."
A spokesperson for UHL said its Emergency Department (ED) is one of the busiest in the country and the numbers presenting continue to increase year on year. "Attendances in 2018 have increased by 8.4pc compared with 2017. This represents an additional 3,148 patients who have attended the ED this year compared with last," said the spokesperson.
"Of those presenting, the numbers requiring admission include many frail, elderly patients with complex care needs.
"This has added additional pressure for beds across all our sites. We regret that any of our patients have to face long waits in our ED during busy periods and any distress or inconvenience this causes to patients and their loved ones."
The HSE told the Irish Independent hospitals across the country are continuing to implement measures so patients can transfer to wards and hospital beds as quickly as possible.
It said these measures include the opening of additional beds, a greater focus on discharging patients to appropriate care as well as speedier access to diagnostic and other tests that mean patients can be discharged more promptly.
Meanwhile, a new study has found patients prefer waiting in an extra bed in a ward rather than in overcrowded EDs.
The research which has been published in the 'Irish Medical Journal' revealed many felt they would get a better night's sleep, while some felt safer.