Trolley toll hits yearly high as hospitals face 'bed-blocking' crisis
Hospitals that suffered their worst overcrowding of the year yesterday are now also being hit by a "bed-blocking" crisis.
The number of patients on trolleys soared to 679 yesterday, the worst figure this year and the second-highest ever.
But as hundreds of people waited for hours on trolleys to be admitted to a ward bed, an even higher volume of patients who no longer needed hospital care could not leave because of a lack of suitable step-down care.
The HSE confirmed that 684 of these patients who require transfer from the hospital to their home, nursing home or rehab were in beds.
"The current average number of patients experiencing a delayed transfer of care from our hospitals each day is 633, a 13pc increase compared to last year. This significantly impacts hospitals' capacity to admit new patients," said a spokeswoman. This was leading to longer waits for patients on trolleys, she added.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation earlier described the trolley toll yesterday as "obscene" and said even South Tipperary General Hospital, which is regarded as a small hospital, had more patients waiting for a bed than some of the largest.
The worst-affected hospitals included University Hospital Limerick, where 63 people were on trolleys; University Hospital Cork, which had 60 waiting for a bed; and Letterkenny University Hospital, with 47 in the queue for admission.
South Tipperary Hospital had 40 patients on trolleys who were in need of a bed.
The HSE said additional funding had been allocated for providing more home help and home care packages in the community to reduce the number of patients waiting to be transferred from hospitals.
Health Minister Simon Harris held a meeting with senior hospital managers to find out what action plans are in place to alleviate the overcrowding.
The nurses' union has blamed a lack of beds and staff for fuelling the figures with the worst of the winter weather still ahead.
The HSE's own figures - which count patients on trolleys in A&Es only - showed 534 were awaiting admission to a ward yesterday morning, with this figure falling to 398 by 2pm.
Meanwhile, a study has found that more than a third of pensioners with medical cards did not get the flu vaccine last winter.
The uptake of 68pc is still below the recommended vaccine coverage for all EU member states.