Overcrowding in emergency departments is 'considerably worse' than this time last year
OVERCROWDING in emergency departments is "considerably worse" than this time last year - and the Government needs to "redouble" its efforts to solve the hospital beds crisis, Health Minister Leo Varadkar has admitted.
An additional 1,000 beds have been provided. "But this hasn't been enough," he said.
"It's never possible to say there will never be overcrowding in emergency departments, it happens all over the world where there's a surge of patients.
"Certainly the situation we're in now is considerably worse than it would have been this time last year, or the year before.
"We need to redouble our efforts in the next couple of weeks," he added.
"This will include 175 additional community nursing unit beds.
"There will also be a media campaign to encourage people to use minor injury units, rather than emergency departments.
"Many of them are available around the country - but are underused."
He said this should relieve pressure on medical staff and allow patients to get treated more quickly.
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.
Other actions include the transfer of patients from acute hospitals to hospitals which manage non-complex care, when their medical condition has stabilised.
The HSE will also recruit a number of frontline staff where there is an "urgent service requirement".
The minister said the target was to have no more than 70 people on trolleys for more than nine hours by the "fourth quarter of this year".
"But, at the moment, our initial target is to free up as many beds as possible and to discharge as many patients as possible."
He also said he was "disappointed to hear" about a case on Friday, when a patient in Dublin was forced to wait over three hours for an ambulance to arrive after calling 999.
"It demonstrates that there is a particular issue in the capital where we have two ambulance services - Dublin Fire Brigade and the National Ambulance Service - and they don't always co-ordinate as well as they should. That is something that needs to change."
Meanwhile, waiting lists for hospital care have trebled - with more than 24,000 patients waiting longer than six months for inpatient and day-case care in hospitals.
Official figures show there were 24,369 patients waiting longer than six months for elective care at the end of January, up from 7,541 in January 2014.