No A&E, but Bantry has a trolley crisis too
New f igures show that even small hospitals are bearing brunt
ONE of Ireland’s smallest hospitals, which does not have an emergency department, has a growing problem with trolleys, an Irish Mail on Sunday analysis of trolley figures reveals.
It comes as nurses’ union the INMO warns that numbers of patients confined to trolleys overnight in hospitals could hit 100,000 by year’s end, if the current trend continues.
New figures for waiting lists show yet another record high of
Emergency department closed four years ago
almost 680,000. Observers say one reason for this is the cancellation of elective surgeries to accommodate pressure from emergency departments.
Every week, nurses’ union the INMO counts patients who were admitted to hospital via the emergency department but had to spend the night on a trolley due to shortages in the main hospital.
Larger hospitals have made the headlines over their trolley figures. The latest figures suggest that smaller hospitals are now joining the ranks of the overwhelmed.
The analysis of INMO figures by the Irish Mail on Sunday shows that Bantry General Hospital which does not have an emergency department continually has patients on trolleys, and parked on wards. The emergency department in Bantry hospital, which covers a large rural area in Co. Cork, closed in 2013. This should mean no overcrowding, but, for example, in September patients were struck on trolleys during 10 of the 21 days counted by the union.
Last week there were 16 people on trolleys, on four out of five days counted by the INMO. The overall percentage of days that Bantry Hospital had patients on trolleys in 2017 was 59%, or nearly three out of every four days in the first nine months of this year.
This compares to 48% of days where patients were on trolleys in 2016, and 30% in 2015 – showing that the problem is getting worse.
The total number of patients on trolleys jumped from 233 in 2015, to 616 in 2016. The figure for the first nine months of this year has already hit 550 patients.
A medical assessment unit treats patients during the day but after hours, emergency cases are admitted to the hospital – or face a 60km journey to Cork city. Local TD Mary Murphy O’Mahony has blamed limited access to respite beds in the area for delays in releasing patients from wards.
‘We could see record figure for 2017’
Referring to the situation in Bantry, the INMO’s Liam Doran said: ‘If Bantry was an aircraft, it would not fly. They are under severe pressure, they are understaffed and often there is no medical cover. This slows access to diagnostics.’ A spokesman for the South/SouthWest Hospital group seemed to miss the point of the MoS’s query: ‘Bantry General Hospital does not have an Emergency Department and therefore it would be misleading to include the figures referenced in this particular context.’
Mr Doran warned: ‘If we keep going like this, we will see a record number for 2017. We are at 73,000 now and the total for last year was 95,000. We could definitely reach 100,000 if something is not done.’
And he said small hospitals that are still running emergency departments are also under pressure. He said: ‘Some of the worst experiences for patients now are in the smaller places.’
The HSE has been trying to recruit emergency department nurses, aiming to bring in 125 nationwide. So far the agency has recruited 17.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Simon Harris yesterday insisted that public hospitals are able to cope with the waiting lists, saying extra funding would be provided on Budget Day.
Referring to extra funding for the National Treatment Purchase Fund, he told the MoS: ‘This year a significant portion of funding has gone to the private sector but we have seen a significant amount of in-sourcing (moving patients from one HSE hospital to another). I expect that to continue.’
A spokesman for the Irish Hospital Consultants Association said these patients are already in competition for the same beds.