60% rise in number of people on trolleys
There was a 60% increase in the number of people on trolleys at Wexford General Hospital in 2017, according to figures released by the Irish Nurses and Midwifes Organisation (INMO).
In total, 1,763 people were recorded as being on trolleys at Wexford General Hospital over the course of 2017 - an increase of 663 on the 2016 figures. Last year's figure is the highest since 2011 when 3,857 were recorded as being on a trolley. According to the INMO's analysis, the national increase from 2016 to 2017 stands at 6%.
Overall, during 2017, 98,981 admitted patients were recorded as awaiting a hospital bed.
As 2017 rolled into 2018 the situation did not improve and the INMO revealed that in the first week of 2018, 2,408 patients were on trolleys or wards - the highest number ever recorded.
Wexford General Hospital saw a 32% increase in its number compared to the same time in 2017. In total, 41 people were waiting for a bed at the hospital during the first week of January. At present, visiting restrictions are in place due to increased presentations of influenza. A 'No Visitor' restriction was put in place on Friday.
Hospital CEOs have been meeting with the INMO and a task force is setting out medium and long-term practical approaches to the recurring problem of overcrowding.
The newly appointed General Secretary of the INMO Phil Ni Sheaghdha said: 'We now have a clear focus on implementing patient flow measures, agreed as part of the INMO/HSE January 2016 WRC Agreement. This agreement was designed to improve hospital overcrowding and where it has been implemented fully the results demonstrate significant improvement.'
Meanwhile, Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) has emphasised the importance of facilitating timely discharges from acute hospitals to nursing homes.
CEO of NHI, Tadhg Daly said: 'The HSE projected at year-end 2017, 563 beds were subject to delayed discharges within our hospitals and 193,661 bed days were lost last year because people clinically fit for discharge remained within the hospital setting.
'While not all discharges can be facilitated with immediacy, concerted engagement between hospital management and local nursing homes, with the appropriate funding support being readily available, can enable us to make huge inroads into addressing overcrowding within our hospitals.'
Wexford TD James Browne has criticised the government saying the trolley figures are 'a damning indictment of Fine Gael's failure to tackle the overcrowding crisis.'
He said: 'This is clearly evident when you examine the figures made available by the INMO. In 2016 a total of 1,100 patients were stuck on trolleys at Wexford General Hospital. This figure increased to 1,763 in 2017, representing a dramatic increase of 60% in the space of a single year. We are now in 2018 and we are continuing to see record numbers of patients stuck on trolleys.'
The trolley crisis, he said, had been a persistent problem for the government but said it had failed to take the necessary steps to tackle it. According to recent figures, Ireland had the lowest number of acute hospital beds in the OECD in 2015 at 2.4% per 1,000 population, compared with the OECD average of 3.6% for the same period.
'We need to urgently increase the number of beds available in our hospitals to help ease the burden. This is the only way the overcrowding crisis will be tackled in the long run," he said.