Irish Republican News · January 6, 2017
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Lives at risk as more than 600 lie on trolleys


The number of patients stuck on trolleys awaiting beds in hospitals in the 26 County state has broken new records, forcing Minister for Health Simon Harris to apologise for his failure to deal with the crisis.

According to Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) Trolley/Ward Watch figures, a record 612 patients were admitted for care and left on trolleys in hospitals on Tuesday. It is only the second time the count has breached the 600 mark.

Numbers overall have nearly doubled between what had been described as a “national emergency” in 2007 (50,402 admitted patients on trolleys) and 2016 (93,621) - an increase of 86 per cent, the INMO said.

Last year the rate peaked at over 800 beds and generally held at about 600, but had more recently dipped to a low of 435. This meant there should have been a reduction in the number of people left on trolleys, according to INMO general secretary Liam Doran.

The situation has been complicated by an ageing population, inadequate community facilities and, crucially, a simple lack of acute bed capacity, particularly outside the Dublin region, said INMO general secretary Liam Doran.

“It’s a disaster of unmitigated proportions as far as I am concerned”.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said numbers have already dropped back down and insists the HSE is now getting on top of the problem.

“It is fair to say the health service wasn’t adequately prepared and that’s not apportioning blame, it’s stating what is now the obvious this week,” he said.

Speaking after an emergency department task force meeting between the HSE, the Department of Health and other stakeholders on Friday, the Minister said: “I’m sorry for what Irish patients had to experience this week, I’m sorry for what staff had to experience.”

But Mr Doran said nurses were losing patience with cuts in the health system and the clock was ticking on the prospect of industrial action.

“My members have had enough, we have a 90 per cent mandate. We are starting discussions next week. The clock is ticking.

“Their patience is worn out and I cannot rule out industrial action in February, not in the context of money, but in the context of the environment and conditions and the deplorable staffing levels that exist.”

Independent Minister of State John Halligan said that the HSE should be disbanded as a result of the crisis. He said that the health service is in “chaos” and that people were “suffering dreadfully”.

He pointed to hospital waiting lists which show a total of 530,000 patients in the 26 County state awaiting treatment.

“I mean it’s chaotic,” Mr Halligan said. “It’s hard to believe that in 2016 you’d be still talking about waiting lists. People sitting on trolleys and so on . . . what the hell has gone wrong?

“I would disband the HSE completely, start afresh.”

Sinn Fein Health Spokesperson Louise O’Reilly said the crisis had not developed overnight but was the result of “years of under investment and it is a direct result of government policy. Therefore only a change in the approach of the government will yield results.”

“We need to be clear - the buck stops with Minister Simon Harris. He needs to get a grip of this situation and meaningfully address the emergency in our hospital. One thing is obvious - he needs to stop looking for excuses and start focusing on finding solutions.”

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