Sunday 20 October 2019

Patients endure indignity of mixed wards as hospitals grapple with overcrowding

HSE chief Tony O’Brien: 'The healthcare system needs to be differently shaped and sized.' Photo: Tom Burke
HSE chief Tony O’Brien: 'The healthcare system needs to be differently shaped and sized.' Photo: Tom Burke

Eilish O'Regan and Kevin Doyle

Patients are having to endure the indignity of mixed wards as the trolley crisis continues to leave many hospitals with dangerous levels of overcrowding.

The HSE said it is "not general practice to mix male and female patients" but it can happen in A&E's and departments such as coronary care units.

If a general ward has men and women, there must be measures in place to "protect the privacy and dignity of patients", said a spokeswoman.

The numbers on trolleys slightly eased yesterday but 551 patients were waiting for a bed yesterday morning.

Cork University Hospital had 43 patients without a bed and St Luke's Hospital, Kilkenny, was again swamped as 42 trolleys were lined up in the A&E and on corridors.

Figures obtained by the Irish Independent reveal that 480 adults who no longer need hospital care were occupying beds for various reasons, including 58 who were waiting for a home care package.

Another 263 are listed as "destination long-term nursing care". These patients are having their Fair Deal applications processed or are waiting for a nursing home of their choice to become free.

Another 117 are in need of high-level rehabilitation or are wards of court. Nine of the patients have "no fixed abode".


An HSE spokeswoman said "transitional care" beds have been made available to transfer some patients from hospital but who are not yet ready to go home or to a nursing home.

An extra 45 home care packages a week were being specifically targeted at patients who were medically fit to leave hospital, she added.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the report recommending up to 2,500 more beds is to be brought to Cabinet in two weeks. He said: "I want to say that the case for extra beds in our hospitals is indisputable.

"Even if there was no overcrowding in our hospitals, we'd need more bed capacity. That's down to the fact we've a growing population and an aging population."

However, he did not elaborate on the level of investment to be directed by the Government to the problem or the time scale involved.

The long-awaited job ad for the post of executive director of the office to implement Sláintecare, the reform programme for the health service, will be published tomorrow.

The Department of Health refused to disclose the salary to be paid to the person appointed to the job. The health service is already seen as top heavy with highly-paid managers at a time when patients are suffering due to a lack of frontline staff.

HSE chief Tony O'Brien yesterday apologised for hospital conditions and said: "The healthcare system needs to be differently shaped and sized."

Irish Independent

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