Tuesday 20 March 2018

Storm Emma aftermath: Hospitals expecting 'dreadful week' as some schools remain closed

  • Non-urgent surgeries for waiting list patients - which involve an overnight stay - remain mostly cancelled
  • Public transport attempts to get back into Monday morning routine
  • Schools in worst affected areas remain closed
  • Status Orange snow-ice warning remains in place in some areas
  • Status Yellow snow-ice warning remains in place in the north-west and south-west
Some scenes from around the country after Storm Emma hit Ireland
Some scenes from around the country after Storm Emma hit Ireland
(stock photo)

Eilish O'Regan, Kevin Doyle and Denise Calnan

Hospital overcrowding is expected to soar this week as an influx of patients who were housebound during the bad weather turn up at A&E departments.

The country has been warned today will not be a 'normal Monday', the National Emergency Coordination Group said yesterday.

A Status Orange snow-ice warning remains in place for Leinster, Cavan, Monaghan, Cork, Tipperary and Waterford.

It will remain in place until noon today and reads; "Widespread lying snow and ice will continue to lead to hazardous conditions.

There will be a risk of localised flooding due to rising river levels and there will be areas of surface water pooling. Mountainous catchments and urban areas most affected."

And a Status Yellow snow-ice warning remains in place for Connacht, Donegal, Clare, Kerry and Limerick.

It remains in place until noon today and reads; "Lying snow and ice will continue to cause hazardous conditions."


The health service is expected to experience a serious backlog, schools in the worst-affected areas are due to remain closed, while some public transport services warn they will expect delays.

Outpatient clinics will resume in all hospitals except for Wexford General Hospital today. A majority of day case surgeries will also go ahead.

However, non-urgent surgeries for waiting list patients - which involve an overnight stay - remain mostly cancelled.

Hospitals face a week of severe bed shortages due to an expected surge in A&E attendances by patients who could not travel last week.

Sources said it was set to be a "dreadful week" in the health system with a combination of delayed discharges and a rise of numbers arriving with fractures as a result of falls.

As many as 700 patients who were fit to be released from hospital had to stay in over the weekend.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has called for the first two weeks of March to be declared an emergency period in the public health service.

It pointed to a delay in discharges, a backlog of patients due to the cancellation of elective procedures and the fact that some nurses will need rest periods having worked for "extended periods".

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: "The next two weeks must be afforded emergency status. This means extraordinary measures should be put in place to focus on recovering from this adverse-weather event, ensuring prioritisation of emergency care, and this will require all non-urgent and routine cases to be cancelled during this period."

It is expected to take at least a week for hospitals to recover from the disruption to services which left thousands of patients with cancelled appointments.

Community health services across the country will also attempt to return to normal but people in areas which are still badly hit by poor driving conditions are advised not to travel if there is a risk.

The extent to which services are reopening varies and St James's Hospital in Dublin has had to cancel its day surgery procedures.

Outpatient clinics and planned procedures will go ahead in the three children's hospitals in Dublin.

University Hospital Galway said there will be some curtailment of non-urgent surgeries and patients will be contacted directly to reschedule their appointments.

The HSE has asked anyone who cannot make their appointment to inform the hospital.

Cork and Kerry community healthcare services in primary care, disability, care of older people and mental health will go ahead as normal today.

Home care may continue to be affected in some of the worst-hit areas for snow, and people are again reminded to check in on elderly or vulnerable members of the community.

A&E departments have seen a rise in patients suffering fractures after falls in the snow.

The HSE asked people to consider whether they really need to go to an emergency department and if there is an alternative service they can go to.

Public Transport

Dublin Bus said it expects to operate a full service today, following impacted frequency and diversions this weekend due to the adverse weather.

In a statement, they said; "It will be the normal Monday morning schedule with some curtailments in place.

"Customers are advised to expect delays this morning and allow extra time for their journey, especially at peak times, as traffic will be heavy with schools and workplaces reopening."

Bus Éireann have resumed the majority of their routes, but have advised that these services are subject to change and are dependent on road conditions.

Passengers have been warned to expect delays on Bus Éireann expressway services. X2 services from Wexford to Dublin and Dublin Airport will operate first departure at 02:00.

All Bus Éireann services in the North West and South West are operating with exception of Route 350, which is only operating between Galway and Ballyvaughan.

Services in the East and South East are operating with the following exceptions: Route 70, Dundalk – Drogheda – Navan – Athboy – Mullingar; Route 105, Drogheda - Ashbourne - Ratoath – Blanchardstown; Route 107, Navan - Kingscourt - Kells; Route 109B Dublin – Kilmessan – Trim; Route 111A, Cavan – Athboy – Delvin; Route 120, Dublin - Clane - Prosperous - Edenderry - Tullamore and return; Route 124, Dublin – Portlaoise. All routes are currently being assessed.

Route 132, Dublin - Tullow – Bunclody has been cancelled, but this will be under review tomorrow morning.

Eurolines Routes 871 and 880 will operate tomorrow, but passengers are advised to prepare for delays.

As for railway services, Iarnród Éireann will operate full service today on all intercity, DART and commuter routes except Limerick to Ballybrophy via Nenagh and Waterford to Limerick Junction. Both routes will resume on Tuesday and bus transfers will operate in their place.

All Irish airports including Dublin, Cork, Kerry, Shannon, Belfast and Ireland West are back in service, but passengers are still being advised by airlines to check the status of their service before leaving for the airport, as some flights are still subject to delays and cancellations.

Irish Ferries and Stena Line Ferries travelling to both England and France are expected to operate, but due to earlier adverse weather, all sailings are subject to disruption. 

Today, the Green Line will operate from Brides Glen to Broombridge.

The Red Line will operate from The Point to Tallaght and Saggart (a replacement bus service will serve the Belgard to Saggart Stops. The bus service will commence at same time as tram service). And the park-and-ride services will be open.

Although a gradual thaw has seen road conditions improve slowly, the AA Roadwatch has warned that snow and ice are still an issue on many routes.

The M7 is fully operational and all lanes are open and operating as normal, it is advised that motorists drive with care and adhere to speed limits.

Until further notice, motorists are being advised to avoid the M7/N7 between J8 and J10 Naas South during peak times due to lying snow. Gardaí have advised that the Old N7 is suitable between Newbridge and Naas, but the route is currently down one lane.

In urban areas motorists are asked to travel at low speeds ad to watch for cyclists and pedestrians who may be on the road due to blocked footpaths.

Cyclists and pedestrians are asked to wear high-visibility clothing.


According to MerrionStreet.ie, it is 'not likely that schools will open today in the areas worst affected, such as Wexford, West Wicklow and North Kildare.'

In Wexford all secondary schools are closed tomorrow, while only a small number of primary schools have confirmed they will be open.

According to South East Radio, Marshalstown National School and St Leonard's National School will be open.

All Primary and Secondary Schools in Wexford Town will be closed today.

In Wicklow a large number of schools are closed but a number of schools around Bray and Wicklow town will be open.

In Kildare, all secondary schools in Naas are closed as is Salesian College Celbridge.

In a statement yesterday evening, Kildare County Council said: "We strongly advise each school and college to carry out their own risk assessment in advance of planned re-opening tomorrow, Monday, particularly in North Kildare.  Road conditions in North Kildare will remain particularly challenging throughout Monday."

In all cases parents are advised to check their school's Facebook page or contact the school for confirmation of their status today.

Irish Independent

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