Q Any solution to the trolley crisis? A A visit from Leo
IT’S being called the Leo dip: the dramatic fall in the number of patients on hospital trolleys just as the Taoiseach swings by for a visit – only for the number to rise again almost as soon as he leaves.
The phenomenon was observed at Galway University Hospital this week, when trolley numbers dropped from 58 on Wednesday to 26 on Thursday, the day of Mr Varadkar’s visit.
However, once the Taoiseach left, the numbers shot back up to 36 on Friday.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation described the dip as ‘a miracle’.
‘We are bemused that such a reduction in numbers took place,’ said spokeswoman Anne Buckley.
‘Beds were opened up on two wards and the medical assessment unit was kept open all week beyond its normal closing time of 8pm to absorb more patients.
‘All in all, great efforts were made to get patients off trolleys. It’s a pity it isn’t like this all the time.’
The Leo dip has been seen before. In March 2015, the HSE was forced to deny moving patients ahead of the then health minister’s visit to Mayo General Hospital.
When Mr Varadkar visited the hospital, there were no patients on trolleys, despite the fact that there had been 25 the previous day.
‘Can you imagine the stress on the staff?’
Last night, Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers said there was ‘no point hiding the mess from the person responsible for fixing it’.
‘If people on trolleys are being hidden, then the HSE need to own up to it and put a stop to it.’
She added: ‘Galway University Hospital has recorded some of the highest numbers of people on trolleys in the entire country.
‘Can you imagine the stress on the hospital manager the day the Taoiseach comes visiting? Not only have they to deal with the daily crisis in A&E but they have to have the place looking good for the Taoiseach.’
The HSE and Department of Health this week refused to comment on the dip in figures. The Taoiseach’s office said the drop was a matter for the HSE and that the Taoiseach ‘would know nothing about it’.
Mr Varadkar’s visit to Galway University Hospital on Thursday, where he opened a new 75-bed ward block, came in a week when there were an average 554 patients on trolleys every day nationally. That figure hit 595 on Wednesday.
The overall daily average for the first two weeks of April 2018 was 524. This compares with a daily average of 240 patients last April.
The figure on Thursday when Mr Varadkar visited Galway was 548, an increase of 59% on the same day last year when there were 345 patients on trolleys.
Last week the INMO said bed capacity was the single biggest issue facing the health service.
But in Galway this week, the Taoiseach said ‘focusing on hospital overcrowding and trolley figures was not helpful to patients or staff’ and it would take more than additional bed capacity to solve overcrowding. ‘More than 300 beds will be added across the country this year, with 2,500 beds over the next 10 years,’ he said.
‘We know, however, from other hospitals, that extra staff, beds and money will not reduce waiting times for patients or overcrowding if it’s not done in tandem with modernised systems and ever more efficient practices.’
However, INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said the numbers of people on trolleys was a ‘national emergency’.
Galway University Hospital is part of the Saolta hospital group.
A spokeswoman said the hospital’s emergency department had been ‘extremely busy’, with a ‘full capacity protocol’ in place all week.
On Tuesday evening, as part of the hospital’s escalation plan, additional trolleys were deployed. The spokeswoman noted that the emergency ward became ‘extremely busy again’ on Wednesday morning, with 58 patients awaiting admission.
‘The situation however improved throughout the day due to increased focus on discharges as part of the hospital’s escalation plan,’ she said.