Tired and worried patients wait on trolleys for hours as hospital A&Es choked after blizzard
More than 200 patients endured delays of at least nine hours for a bed in hospitals across the country yesterday amid growing concern about the impact of the slow recovery from the recent snow.
There were 613 tired and worried patients waiting on trolleys in A&E departments and wards, with little space for new arrivals in several hospitals in Cork, Limerick and Tullamore.
The knock-on effect of having to halt outpatient clinics for three days last week is also heaping more pressure on services.
Prof Tim Lynch, a neurologist at St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin, said over 19,000 people were waiting for a first appointment to see a neurologist.
More than 6,000 were waiting more than 12 months and over 3,500 have been on the list for in excess of 18 months.
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The delays have put a strain on many of the 800,000 people who are living with neurological conditions such as migraine, epilepsy, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease.
"We have improved access to neurology - about twice as many patients are seen now compared to six to seven years ago," Prof Lynch said.
"However, the waiting list is about the same because more people are appropriately referred and we are unable to meet the demand.
"There is an urgent need to implement the model of care for neurology that is with the HSE and Department of Health for the last two years."
Meanwhile, the master of the Rotunda maternity hospital in Dublin, Prof Fergal Malone, warned the timeline of 10 years to build a new hospital is too long.
The current building is over 260-years-old and it is proposed to build a new hospital on the grounds of Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown.
He said: "Unfortunately, it is unrealistic to expect the completion of this relocation in the near future. In the absence of any indication to the contrary, it is likely it will take at least 10 years to realise the Connolly relocation.
"It means over 100,000 mothers and their babies will need to be safely managed on the existing campus before a potential relocation to Connolly."
He added: "We cannot wait such a long period without taking action to protect patients from serious adverse outcomes related to infection."
A Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) inspection raised serious concerns about infection control.
Prof Malone said: "The Rotunda Hospital is currently embarking on a minor capital works programme to upgrade infrastructure in its existing campus, including the development of a modular operating theatre, upgrading of the labour ward and upgrading and refurbishment of the neonatal intensive care unit.
"These upgrade works are being funded directly by the Rotunda with some financial support committed from the HSE Acute Hospitals Division in 2019."
But these will not adequately "address the major risks identified during the Hiqa inspection, associated with overcrowding and infection that currently exist at the hospital due to its dated infrastructure".
Prof Malone said that in order to "address these risks, the Rotunda Hospital is currently finalising an interim capital and service optimisation plan for its existing city centre campus, and is in the process of engaging with relevant stakeholders".
He added: "It was also outlined in the Hiqa report that less than desirable staffing numbers likely contribute to challenges in infection outbreak management in the hospital.
"The hospital acknowledges this finding and has been very proactive in trying to source additional nursing and midwifery staff, in particular for the neonatal intensive care unit.
"This has included a major effort to recruit nurses from outside the EU."
Under the National Development Plan it is planned to co-locate all remaining stand-alone maternity hospitals with adult acute hospitals.
The National Maternity Hospital will relocate to the St Vincent's Hospital and the Coombe to St James's Hospital.