Tuesday 24 April 2018

Prefabs may not be ready for winter A&E trolley surge

Breaking point: Billy Kelleher
Breaking point: Billy Kelleher
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Prefabs to provide accommodation for patients on the grounds of some of the hospitals suffering record levels of A&E trolley gridlock may not be ready for the winter overcrowding surge, it emerged yesterday.

The prefabs were promised as part of a series of moves to ease the trolley crisis which has been the worst in a decade in the first six months of this year, new figures revealed yesterday.

Many hospitals are now locked in a constant "winter crisis" all-year-round and yesterday 24 patients were waiting for a bed in South Tipperary Hospital, which has been earmarked for a prefabricated "patient hotel".

However, asked about progress, a spokesman for the hospital said while it has "received approval to proceed with enablement work on the site, it is now awaiting funding approval to progress the tender".

Questioned on how far ahead are the plans in other hospitals for the much-needed prefabs, a spokeswoman for the HSE said: "There are no definitive plans at the present time in relation to the coming winter months."

Significant "engagement and consultation has [been] and is being undertaken" and the use of prefabs will be considered.

It comes as damning figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) show 51,321 patients, who were deemed sick enough to be in a hospital ward, were on trolleys in emergency departments or other areas in the first half of the year.

Hospitals which are in the grip of a rise in patients on trolleys include the Mater Hospital, Beaumont Hospital, Cavan Hospital, Letterkenny General Hospital and St Luke's, Kilkenny.

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Health Minister Simon Harris said yesterday that extra staff and beds are needed.

He said 700 new nurses have been hired since the beginning of the year and the target is to employ another 1,208 this year.

He is also carrying out a bed capacity review and this will be ready in September.

"The population is growing and we are seeing more and more older people and people with chronic illness attending hospital," he added.

Surged

The HSE set a target last autumn that no more than 236 should be on trolleys on any day. But earlier this year the numbers surged to 612, and even though it is mid-summer there were 249 waiting for a bed yesterday.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on health Deputy Billy Kelleher said: "Over the month of June, we saw daily reports of between 300 and 350 people on trolleys across the country.

"From the end of August, these figures will start to increase until the middle of winter when the figure will be closer to 650.

"Unless action takes place over the summer and autumn, we will be back to square one again with Mr Harris wringing his hands in despair and saying that next year will be better.

"The minister has been in office for more than 12 months and is now approaching his second winter. The health system cannot cope with any further escalation in the number of people on trolleys.

"It's at breaking point, and it urgently needs a Health Minister who comes to the table with solutions and not empty gestures."

Irish Independent

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