Wednesday 21 February 2018

Trolley gridlock is 'creating dangerous A&E conditions'

Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Frank McGrath
Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Frank McGrath
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Trolley gridlock in several hospital A&Es brought more winter misery for hundreds of patients as one doctor described conditions as "dangerous".

The worst hit was University Hospital Limerick (UHL) where 69 patients were languishing on trolleys yesterday morning.

Other hospitals struggling with overcrowding were Cork University Hospital, St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin, Mayo General and University Hospital Galway.

A spokeswoman for UHL said it is battling an outbreak of the winter vomiting bug and is imposing strict visiting restrictions.

It was forced to transfer suitable patients from Limerick to Ennis, Nenagh, St John's Hospital and Croom Orthopaedic Hospital.

Dr James Gray, emergency consultant in Tallaght Hospital, said he wrote to hospital managers yesterday morning describing conditions in the A&E as dangerous and unsafe.

There were 17 patients in the department and one was waiting for nearly nine hours.

"It is only a matter of time before there is the next cardiac arrest, serious morbidity or mortality in the waiting room or among the admitted boarders," he said. "The care cannot be provided safely and there is a critical shortage of nursing resources on the floor."

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The unit was suffering a shortage of four nurses.

It meant seven cubicles were occupied by patients who should be in a bed and another six were expected to have to close due to lack of staff.

It left just five cubicles, two psychiatric bays and four resuscitation bays to care for 140 patients throughout the day.

Dr Gray's concerns were echoed by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), which said conditions were intolerable.

In response, a spokesman for Tallaght Hospital said it is seeing a large number of patients being admitted through A&E and escalation procedures were triggered.

As of yesterday afternoon, there were 12 patients on trolleys in the A&E with 33 more being accommodated in escalation beds or trolleys elsewhere in the hospital.

A small number of nursing vacancies that currently exist will be filled in the coming months, he said.

In the meantime, the A&E is using agency and in-house staff reserve as well as overtime. Health Minister Simon Harris promised a winter initiative to relieve pressures - but the signs are that overcrowding is set to worsen in the coming weeks.

The dip in temperatures will worsen respiratory complaints and lead to more demands on hospitals to admit patients to badly needed beds.

Irish Independent

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