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Most patients waiting for beds 'longer than is safe'

THE call on hospitals across the State to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to having patients on trolleys in corridors is unlikely to see the practice entirely outlawed, particularly during winter spikes in overcrowding.

The snapshot survey of waiting times in 33 hospitals around the country in August last year revealed most patients are waiting beyond the six-hour deadline, beyond which the chances of having an adverse outcome increases.

The survey was conducted in late August when hospital emergency departments are free of the winter pressures of flu and winter respiratory illnesses.

However, the survey found the longest waiting time for a patient who could be discharged was 115.49 hours, nearly five days. The longest a patient who needed a bed was waiting was 137.48 hours -- nearly six days.

Hospitals with the longest wait for patients who needed a bed were Portiuncula Hospital in Galway, Naas General Hospital, Beaumont Hospital, University College Hospital, Galway and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda.

Nine of the hospitals were not able to provide up-to-date data about waiting times on the day, saying it was not available electronically.

Although many hospitals are now moving patients on trolleys to wards in the hospital, rather than corridors, this practice is also not acceptable, said HIQA.

Background pressures which contributed to the overcrowding included 611 closed beds and 799 delayed discharge patients, previously known as 'bed blockers'.

Since then the Department of Health has set up a Special Delivery Unit to oversee emergency departments and monitor their performance.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) said yesterday that "in relation to the six-hour target mentioned in the report, currently 65pc of patients in emergency departments are either discharged or admitted within that time". So far this system has led to a 20pc reduction in patients waiting on trolleys, said a spokesman.

However, Dr John McInerney, a spokesman for emergency consultants warned last night that emergency department overcrowding remains a daily risk to patient safety in many hospitals around the country.

The problem has been made worse in the past 12 months by further bed closures, he added.

Irish Independent