Q Any so­lu­tion to the trol­ley cri­sis? A A visit from Leo

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - NEWS - By Ni­cola Byrne news@mailon­sun­day.ie

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.

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