| 15.2°C Dublin

6,600 patients on trolleys as beds cut back

A RECORD 6,600 patients were left waiting on trolleys in A&E wards last month, according to figures compiled by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Association.

The group warned that the situation will get worse, with the closure of 2,000 beds adding to the problem of increased demand for health services as the winter approaches.

INMO general secretary Liam Doran said it was clear the Government's current cost-cutting measures were having "a serious negative impact upon patient care".

He also said that many hospitals were trying to deal with the crisis by placing more beds in wards that are already cramped.

"Emergency department overcrowding and people waiting for beds on trolleys is the greatest challenge facing the health system every day," said Mr Doran.

"It cannot be solved by hiding the problem with extra beds on wards, which compromises the care of patients," he added.

August saw the highest-ever levels of overcrowding in emergency departments, with INMO surveys showing a 106pc increase in the numbers on trolleys since 2007.

It found that 6,624 people were on trolleys last month, compared with 3,200 four years ago.

Last Wednesday there were 401 patients on trolleys nationwide.

As of September 1, almost 2,000 beds have been closed, including 61 in the Mater, 97 in Louth County, 86 in the Midlands Regional in Tullamore, 62 in Cork University, and 29 in Letterkenny General.

Based on the HSE's performance system, the new figures indicate that five out of six of the main Dublin hospitals are ranked as unsatisfactory in terms of their emergency department's performance.

The HSE has said the numbers being treated in hospitals has increased this year, and that there are more day cases.

It added that the health system is facing increased challenges financially for the rest of the year and that hospitals must stay in budget.

But Mr Doran called for a review of these cost-cutting measures.

"There is no other option or solution to deal with this crisis which exists every day," he said.