Patients must endure mixed wards to help hospitals ease trolley crisis
Patients are having to endure the indignity of mixed- gender wards in a bid to alleviate hospital overcrowding.
The trolley crisis had 504 patients waiting for a bed yesterday, leaving hospitals with little summer respite as the colder autumn and winter weather looms.
The worst hit was Cork University Hospital where 59 were on trolleys, while 58 patients needed a bed in University Hospital Limerick.
The issue of mixed wards - where men and women have to share space - is now coming to the attention of public representatives.
Hospitals say putting women and men in one ward is an emergency response in the interest of patient safety and they are moved as quickly as possible.
Kerry TD Brendan Griffin, Minister of State at the Department of Transport, asked Health Minister Simon Harris what measures were in place to end mixed-gender wards.
Mr Harris referred the question to the HSE South and University Hospital Kerry, which was at the centre of severe overcrowding last month.
In response, Fearghal Grimes, the general manager of University Hospital Kerry, said it strived to "maintain patient dignity and respect in all instances in the hospital including in the provision of men-only or women-only wards".
"While every efforts is made to ensure this happens consistently, due to the pressure on beds from the emergency department there are occasions when, in the interests of patient safety, patients are placed in a mixed gender room," he said.
Mr Grimes added: "If it happens, it is for the shortest period possible".
The hospital has made submissions for extra beds and they are currently under consideration.
"An increase in bed capacity would obviously decrease the frequency of mixed-gender wards," he said.
The number of delayed discharges - patients occupying acute beds who no longer need medical care but have no suitable step-down supports ready - has now reached a record 746.
This has been partly linked to the slowdown in the release of funding for the Fair Deal nursing home scheme and HSE homecare supports.
However, it is leaving some A&E departments with no breathing space despite the good weather and recent holiday season.
The HSE said it was "not general practice to mix male and female patients", but it could happen .
If a general ward has men and women, there must be measures in place to "protect the privacy and dignity of patients".
Meanwhile, a Hiqa report yesterday on management of medicines in Bantry Hospital in Cork said significant concerns in relation to the overall leadership and governance needed to be addressed.