HOSPITAL managers are deliberately hiding the number of patients left languishing on trolleys every day, a nursing union claimed yesterday.
Up to nine hospitals are frequently and deliberately manipulating 'trolley watch' figures by placing trolleys in wards, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has claimed.
Trolleys are only supposed to be placed in wards as part of a major accident plan, INMO general secretary Liam Doran said. He was speaking on the opening day of the INMO annual delegate conference in Killarney, Co Kerry, yesterday.
One of the motions to be debated during the conference will be that trolley watches should count all trolleys in the hospital.
According to the latest INMO figures, there was a reduction of 17pc nationally in the number of patients on trolleys in the first four months of this year, and a 23pc reduction in the greater Dublin area.
However, this figure is still 33pc higher than in the period from January to April 2007 when the then Health Minister Mary Harney declared it a national emergency.
The INMO also updated its list of bed closures, which shows that 2,402 public beds are closed around the country, compared with 705 when the survey began in October 2009.
"We're very mindful that perhaps, in recent months, some hospitals are trying to hide the extent of their overcrowding by placing people on trolleys almost every day in inpatient wards . . . which is only supposed to happen in a major accident plan," Mr Doran said.
Mr Doran said that there were some hospitals, including the Midwestern Hospital in Limerick, that were perennially at full capacity because there were simply too few beds to deal with the demand.
The INMO is calling for closed beds to be reopened and for the moratorium on recruitment to be lifted for frontline staff.
However, the director of the Department of Health's special delivery unit, Tony O'Brien, denied hospitals were "hiding" trolleys.
"I think that's impossible. The reality is that the INMO conducts its independent count and on the basis of that count they have reported today, there's been a 17pc reduction in the numbers on trolleys."
Mr O'Brien also said that one hospital was facing fines of up to €25,000 per month per patient for failing to meet its waiting-list targets.