Trolley gridlock left hospitals struggling to cope with overcrowded emergency departments again today as the numbers of patients waiting for a bed rose to 551.
University Hospital Limerick, which had 55 people on trolleys, had to cancel all non-urgent surgery and transfer patients to other hospitals in Nenagh and Clare.
Other patients, who were finished their acute treatmentwere offered community care transfers. The hospital also also struck by a small outbreak of the winter vomiting bug.
Other hospitals which are badly hit include Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown where 45 were waiting for a ward bed and Beaumont Hospital which is under continuing pressure with 48 on trolleys.
Outside of Dublin Letterkenny Hospital in Donegal was trying to cope with 33 patients on trolleys.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar met with hospital managers yesterday to agree to a range of measures to alleviate the ongoing crisis.
Outlining the measures the Department of Health said :
*In January, 500 transitional care beds were funded in private nursing homes and a further 250 beds have been funded in February, to assist in the discharge of patients from acute hospitals.
* 173 short stay public beds are being opened across the country for a three month period in response to potential additional admissions arising from the current flu virus. These include Cuan Ross in Dublin, with the first ten opening next week; Fairview in Dublin, Farranlea Road in Cork, Galway, and Ballinasloe. Twenty four private nursing home beds will come on stream in Drogheda from this week.
* Arrangements are in place in the HSE to recruit frontline staff where it has been established that there is an urgent service requirement. Both the day and night shift nursing complements have increased in Beaumont, while 70 nursing posts have been agreed for the University of Limerick Hospital Group, 22 agency nurse conversions, 66 nursing posts, and additional HCA posts for Drogheda, and 39 posts for Naas.
* Staff rosters are taking account of leave entitlements to ensure continuity of care.
* The HSE is preparing a communications campaign, including local radio, to encourage more people to us minor injury units and local injury units instead of emergency departments.This should help to relieve pressure on emergency departments and allow patients to get treated more quickl, it said.
* A further 65 beds will be opened on a phased basis from April in Mount Carmel, with plans for rehabilitation beds to be opened in Louth County Hospital later this month. Up to 300 overflow beds have been opened.
* Community Intervention Teams have been introduced in Naas and in Drogheda. These have proved very effective at helping people to avoid hospital admission or to avail of early discharge, by managing their medical needs at home.