Patient influx at A&Es to force more surgeries to be cancelled
Hospital overcrowding, which reached a near-record high yesterday, is set to worsen this week - forcing the cancellation of hundreds of much-needed surgical operations for waiting-list patients.
Patients swamped several A&E departments across the country yesterday after putting their medical care on hold during the bad weather.
Hospitals are now having to struggle with staff rosters in the wake of the icy blast.
The thaw resulted in an influx of 664 patients on trolleys with Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and Tullamore among the worst hit.
Outpatient clinics have reopened and day procedures resumed in most hospitals.
But it will be necessary to cancel non-urgent surgery, requiring an overnight stay, again today.
This is devastating news for patients on public waiting lists who may have waited a year-and-a-half for the surgery and are now in deteriorating health.
The HSE warned yesterday that patients on trolleys, who need a bed, risk facing even greater delays as the week progresses and A&E attendances increase.
There are around 570 patients whose discharge is delayed for regular reasons including waiting for a nursing home place, a home care package or other step-down measure.
However, the adverse weather and dangerous road conditions have left another 200 patients, who are ready for discharge, occupying beds.
The HSE said most of these snow-related delayed discharge patients will be allowed home in the coming week.
"We hope patients and their families understand the reasons for this and we will endeavour to facilitate their discharge as soon as possible this week," said a spokesman.
The combined high level of delayed discharges is putting even more pressure on bed shortages.
The HSE said it is conscious of the massive efforts made by all staff to keep services open during the storm.
"These staff will now need a period of rest and this will impact staff rosters and service delivery over the coming week," it said.
The stretched rosters will affect not just hospitals but also community services.
The HSE's own figures -which do not include those moved to wards on trolleys - show 280 waited for a bed for more than nine hours yesterday.
This compares to 184 who endured this gruelling delay for a bed on the same day last year.
Patients are being asked to consider whether they really need to go to an emergency department and if there is an alternative service they can avail of.
"If your injury is minor in nature, where you might require stitches or where you have sprained your ankle, the HSE has a number of minor injury units around the country," said the HSE.
The advice to older people is to be mindful of the risk of slips, trips and falls. If you have a personal alarm, make sure you wear it at all times.
The ambulance service is also under ongoing strain and prioritising emergency calls.
"Before phoning for an ambulance, we would urge people to consider why they are calling for this emergency service and, as roads are now improving, whether there are any alternative options available to them.
"If you do need to call an ambulance please know or have your Eircode to hand," said a spokesman.
Meanwhile, although community services have resumed, home care is still facing disruption in some parts of the country.
The GP out-of-hours service is returning to normal but is still experiencing some pressure. "We are asking people to consider if they can wait until the following morning to visit their own GP and to only use the out-of-hours service where really necessary," it said.
HSE day services at community, district and elderly care hospitals in counties Carlow, Kilkenny, South Tipperary and Waterford resumed yesterday.
People are urged to continue to look in on older neighbours and people with a disability until the safety risks recede.