Wednesday 17 January 2018

Non urgent surgery cancelled as overcrowding at hospital spirals

Anne Campbell

OVERCROWDING at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda reached such a crisis point last week that management invoked the hospital's 'full escalation protocol' and cancelling non urgent surgery.

The HSE said there had been a 'very high number' of patients going to the Emergency Department at the end of last week, with the numbers peaking on Thursday night and into Friday morning. Trolley Watch reported 39 patients on trolleys on Thursday - the highest in the country.

At one point, the situation was so bad that extra equipment was brought in to deal with the demand on resources.

No official explanation has been given for the peak in numbers, which is outside the traditional 'trouble' time of the winter months such as November and December.

Health campaigner Cllr. Tomas Sharkey claimed that nurses had told him the situation had become 'dangerous'.

Late on Friday morning, the HSE said there were still 25 patients waiting to get into the ED.

A statement from the HSE said: Staff are working with senior clinicians to utilise all resources effectively. This means that the most critically ill patients are prioritised for treatment and available beds. As a result some patients may experience delays in being seen and where necessary admitted; patients attending with minor injuries will experience longer wait times in the Department. 'All non urgent elective admissions have been cancelled. All the Multi Disciplinary Team are working tirelessly to deal with the situation and it is being monitored on an hourly basis.

'Due to the high number of presentations to the Department on Friday there was a high demand on equipment but this was sorted very promptly and additional equipment was made available.

'Louth Meath Hospital Group actively liaise with colleagues in the Community Services to expedite the transfer of patients awaiting rehab and step down care. There are currently 13 clinically discharged patients in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.

'Hospital Management wish to acknowledge the hard work, commitment and dedication of all staff at this time'. The HSE also said that the Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) in the Louth County Hospital should be used and urged people not to come to the Drogheda hospital unless it was a genuine emergency.

Cllr. Sharkey said last week's situation was 'not just a glitch but this is day-to-day' and patients were experiencing overcrowding in the Lourdes on a regular basis.

Figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) for the last two weeks in July show the Lourdes was in the top three most overcrowded hospitals in the country, leading the figures on many days.

Cllr. Sharkey said: 'The solution to this is the phased reintroduction of services to the Louth County Hospital by turning the MIU into a Medical Assessment Unit and then increase that to an Acute Medical Admission Unit (AMAU) and then into an ED.

'The HSE and this government have now given us a standard service where 20-plus people are on trolleys in the Lourdes on a daily basis and what used to be occasional is now the constant daily level.

'A political decision, by new health minister Leo Varadkar, is needed to give us the pressure valve that enhanced services at the Louth would give us.

'The TDs and senators in Louth who promised to fight for hospital services in Dundalk are utter failures – they are standing over a third world scenario at the Lourdes'.

The Argus

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