FIGURES released earlier this month by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) indicate that the situation at Emergency Departments is getting worse with hundreds of patients left lying on hospital trolleys as they wait for beds to become available to allow them be admitted for further treatment. Normally, we don't hear much about the ongoing crisis in EDs at this time of year, but that does not mean the problems have gone away.Â
They tend to be at their worst during the depths of winter when serious outbreaks of influenza or vomiting bugs necessitate the admission of older people whose resistance is low and we hear terrible stories of often-frail elderly people â centenarians in a number of cases â having to spend long hours on trolleys in hospital corridors, waiting for assessment and treatment. Such lengthy waits in these circumstances at any age is a violation of a person's dignity and not a situation anybody would like to find themselves in.Â
Commenting on the data released by the INMO, Fianna FÃ¡il's spokesman on heath, Billy Kelleher, warned that worse is to come unless the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, begins to deal with the root causes of the escalating trolley crisis. The Minister has been talking up the efforts to deal with the crisis, but as Mr Kelleher pointed out, the situation has got worse in the 12 months since Mr Harris took office.
The Fianna FÃ¡il man acknowledged that âlimited progress' was made between 2015 and 2016 after the Emergency Department Task Force was set up by then Minister for Health and now Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, in December 2014. However, this has been âcompletely wiped away' over the past 12 months when there was a 21% year-on-year increase in the numbers waiting on trolleys and, as he rightly stated, this is âsimply not acceptable.'
Minister Harris's much-hyped Winter Initiative has done little to reduce the numbers, with 300 to 350 people now on hospital trolleys countrywide most days. We need more hospital beds, otherwise it will spiral totally out of control next winter.