Summer nightmare for patients as 8,000 are forced to wait on trolleys

(Stock photo)

Eilish O'Regan

Patients endured the worst August for hospital overcrowding on record, according to new figures.

Ireland may have enjoyed a sun-drenched summer, but 7,911 patients languished on trolleys last month.

The figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) reveal the extent of pressure on hospitals - even before the onset of the cold and flu season.

The trolley numbers for the month are 2pc higher than last year. Among those who were forced to wait for a bed were 30 children.

The hospitals that were worst hit were University Hospital Limerick with 969; University Hospital Galway with 619; and Cork University Hospital with 604.

The figures also show that staff shortages caused the closure of 31 hospital beds during the height of the trolley crisis, new figures reveal.

A hospital snapshot in mid-February shows 99 beds were out of bounds, despite the desperate needs of patients in congested A&E departments.

Infection control and refurbishment were cited as other reasons for putting the beds off limits to patients on trolleys.

The extent to which the recruitment and retention of nurses in particular is a crisis or not is set to form one of the major public pay battles this winter.

There are signals from Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe that he will resist their demands for special wage increases.


INMO general secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha warned: "Even though it was a mild month, patients and staff faced record overcrowding. Nearly 8,000 sick and injured people were forced to wait without a bed.

"The message from the front-line is clear; this all comes down to pay.

"The HSE simply cannot find enough nurses and midwives to work on these wages.

"It's no coincidence that Limerick has had such a bad month, they have more than 70 unfilled nursing vacancies."

She said that unless nurses and midwives get pay equality with similarly qualified health professionals, vacancies will remain open and "things will only get worse".

The INMO will meet the HSE and the Department of Health at the Workplace Relations Commission next week.

The two sides will discuss "understaffing and overcrowding", she added.

"The INMO is asking the HSE to present plans for dealing with the winter crisis, including which hospital services they plan to curtail to meet extra demand," said Ms Ni Sheaghdha.

The Public Service Pay Commission, which is looking at recruitment and retention, is due to report to Mr Donohoe shortly.