Go to Top

Response to record levels of hospital overcrowding too little too late

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall TD has criticised the government’s belated efforts to tackle the ongoing crisis of hospital overcrowding which reached a new peak this week.

Deputy Shortall was commenting on the latest 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 714.

“The allocation last night of an additional €5 million to deal with the issues of delayed discharges is too little too late. €5 million is a drop in the ocean when you consider that 200 nursing home beds would cost €1.2 million for just one week.

Deputy Shortall proposed the following steps to tackle the ongoing crisis:

  • More efficient 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 to the most appropriate type of bed. This requires ongoing active hands-on management within the hospital group and full cooperation from staff at all levels.  This pioneering approach is making a huge difference and other hospitals should be required to follow suit. The Department of Health must oversee the implementation of this approach.
  • Use all existing spare capacity in community services, private nursing homes and HSE-run premises. At any one time there are about 500 to 600 delayed discharges in our acute hospitals. These patients are ready to leave acute hospitals but are awaiting step down services in the community or in nursing homes. Significant resources must be provided to identify more appropriate facilities for these patients and free up the maximum number of acute hospital beds possible.
  • Examine the possibility of using spare bed capacity in the private hospitals on an interim basis. The diversion of elective procedures to private hospitals would help free up emergency capacity in the public system.
  • The opening of all beds within the public hospital system which are currently closed due to refurbishment. Currently, almost 150 beds are closed due to refurbishment alone.
  • 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.