Wednesday 24 January 2018

Thousands of elderly patients on trolleys for more than nine hours

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Health service statistics
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Some 3,599 patients over the age of 75 years waited on a hospital trolley for more than nine hours in December.

And 661 of these elderly patients endured delays of more than 24 hours before getting a bed or discharge home.

The figures emerged in the HSE's end-of-year performance report which highlights mixed fortunes for the health service with some areas seeing improvement in the course of 2015 and others a deterioration.

The report said that on average 83 patients a day were waiting for more than nine hours on a trolley, down from 108 in November against a background of a rise in attendances.

By December, the number of delayed discharges - patients no longer in need of hospital care who were waiting transferred to a facility such as a nursing home - was down to 509, compared to 719 in December 2014.

The numbers of older people availing of nursing home support under the Fair Deal scheme rose from 22,060 in December 2014 to 23,073 last December.

There was also a huge rise in the numbers of people with GP visit cards following the extension of free visits to the under-sixes and over-70s.

There were 431,306 people with a GP visit card, a jump of 170pc over the previous year as a result.

Another 99,396 had discretionary medical cards after the assessment process was relaxed .

The fall in discretionary medical cards to 52,000 in June 2014, caused huge controversy for the outgoing government. Health Minister Leo Varadkar, who took over the department shortly afterwards, succeeded in defusing the row by reviewing how they are allocated.

The December 2015 report however, shows how some cancer clinics in hospitals are under growing pressure.

While 91.1pc of people with suspected lung cancer were seen in rapid access clinics within 10 days in December 2014, this fell to 87.3pc at the end of last year.

It comes against a background of a rise of 1.3pc in the number of patients seen in 2015 compared to 2015.

There was also a failure to meet the deadline of 20 days to assess all patients with potential prostate cancer in rapid access clinics.

Just 55.1pc were assessed within this time frame at the end of 2015, compared to 61.9pc in 2014.

The rapid access prostate clinics in Waterford, Cork and Limerick had particularly low performances.

The report said that St James's Hospital in Dublin was outsourcing some work.

Waterford and Cork hospital also sent some of their patients for private appointments.

The rate of Caesarean sections in maternity units also went up last year to 29.9pc, compared to 29pc in 2014.

The report shows ongoing problems with staff absenteeism rates.

At the end of November last year absenteeism was running at 4.31pc. This compared to 4.10pc a year earlier.

While waiting lists for public patients needing surgery fell at the end of last year, recent figures show increases in the numbers facing delays of more than 15 months.

This has been linked to the trolley crisis and the agreement with nurses to include cancellation of admissions for surgery in order to free up beds.

There was only a slight decrease in the number of children waiting to see a psychiatrist.

While 2,869 were on a waiting list in December 2014, this had dropped to just 2,298 by last December.

The target to move 150 people with a disability from congregated settings to a home in the community was not met.

Instead, some 137 were transferred to more suitable accommodation.

Irish Independent

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