Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall TD has described today’s record high levels of hospital overcrowding as disgraceful, predictable and avoidable.
Deputy Shortall was commenting on figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation which show that the number of people on trolleys and wards awaiting hospital beds has risen to a new high of 677.
“This latest trolley crisis is a national disgrace and is intolerable for both patients and staff – but it is also absolutely predictable. After a summer when our health services were on a knife-edge, it was inevitable that winter flu and other seasonal illnesses would push our hospitals beyond breaking point,” Deputy Shortall said.
Deputy Shortall proposed the following immediate steps to alleviate this national emergency:
- Additional funding for home care packages and home help services to free up hospital beds whilst also allowing people to convalesce at home, which leads to better health outcomes. Existing spare capacity in both private nursing homes and HSE-run premises should also be used. At any one time there are about 500 to 600 delayed discharges in our acute hospitals. These are people who are ready to leave hospital but are awaiting step down services in the community or in nursing homes.
- Better bed management at hospital group level so that patients can be transferred between hospitals within groups where there is spare capacity. The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland group covering north Dublin and the north east is successfully referring patients between its hospitals. This efficient use of beds should be adopted by other hospital groups.
- Emergency funding to beef up out of hours services run by GPs and nurses in primary care centres so that patients in need of medical treatment have real alternatives to hospital emergency departments. There is considerable capacity in terms of public facilities, but only skeleton staff coverage is currently provided. That is discouraging people from attending their local primary care centres and pushing them towards acute hospitals.
Deputy Shortall added:
“We need to end the annual New Year trolley crisis once and for all and the only way to do that is to get beyond quick fixes. The Sláintecare plan published in May of last year by a cross-party Oireachtas committee which I chaired set out a fully costed ten-year road map to overhaul our broken health system. Instead of acting swiftly to put this plan in place, the government has squandered the past seven months with little practical progress made.”