Overcrowding crisis: Hot meals banned for patients languishing on hospital trolleys
Overcrowded hospitals have been forced to stop giving hot meals to patients who are on trolleys waiting for a bed.
The ban on hot meals has been introduced for patients' safety in several hospitals, the Irish Independent has learned.
Despite patients waiting for many hours on trolleys, health officials are concerned at the potential accidents that could happen if plates or bowls of food are overturned.
St James's Hospital, Dublin, the largest hospital in the State, confirmed it cannot provide these trolley patients with hot meals before being moved to a ward. A spokeswoman for the hospital said: "All patients in our emergency department receive suitable meals throughout the day as clinically permitted and as required.
"The hospital does not provide hot meals to patients awaiting admission in the emergency department due to patient safety concerns. The hospital has been dealing with exceptional pressures and congestion, and our aim is always to get a patient from the emergency department to an inpatient bed as soon as possible."
Another hospital which has suffered severe overcrowding, University Hospital Limerick, has also had to stop serving hot meals in its A&E department.
A spokeswoman said it understands the "important role that nutrition and hydration plays in the care of patients and in their recovery".
"Every effort is made to provide nutrition and hydration as appropriate to all patients who are waiting in the emergency department for admission to a bed," she said.
"Where a patient is able to sit up and following clinical advice, they are offered food and drink at meal times, typically this is sandwiches and tea or coffee.
"It is not possible to provide hot meals in the environment as patients waiting on trolleys do not have an appropriate surface and hot food could pose a health and safety hazard.
"However, once admitted to a ward, if a patient has missed their meal an alternative is organised for them."
The ban means patients, who could be on a trolley in various hospitals for days during the worst of the trolley crisis, will not have a hot meal.
Other hospitals say they continue to serve the hot meals in A&E including Beaumont, Tallaght, Galway and Cork. St Vincent's Hospital did not respond to queries.
Hospital food has been the subject of inspection in recent years by the patient safety body, the Health Information and Quality Authority.
A spokeswoman said a review of nutrition and hydration care in public acute hospitals states that hospitals must ensure their patients' fundamental nutrition and hydration care needs are met. She said: "Hospitals should ensure patients, who are deemed admitted but are waiting for a hospital bed to become available, have their individual dietary needs catered for, are offered a hot meal option and the meal is appropriate to the time of day that it is served."