Hospital overcrowding in Republic a 'national emergency'

Hundreds of patients across the Republic are waiting for hospital beds amid a seasonal flu outbreak
Hundreds of patients across the Republic are waiting for hospital beds amid a seasonal flu outbreak

HOSPITAL overcrowding in the Republic is a "national emergency", a leading trade union has said.

A total of 677 patients across the Republic were waiting on trolleys or chairs yesterday, statistics from the Irish Nurses' and Midwives' Organisation (INMO) showed.

The figure was up on Tuesday's record of 656 patients waiting for hospital beds.

St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny was worst affected, with 54 patients waiting.

INMO General Secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha said some hospitals were not able to withstand the influx of patients at the height of the flu season.

"It is clear that a national emergency is now in place and certain locations simply cannot cope," she said.

"These record numbers are unacceptable. It is intolerable for both patients and staff endeavouring to provide the best care possible to them."

She called for an urgent meeting of the Emergency Department Task Force to discuss the overcrowding crisis.

The last meeting of the Task Force was early last month.

Separate figures from the Health Service Executive (HSE), compiled yesterday morning, showed than 51 patients had been waiting on a trolley for more than 24 hours.

The HSE said it expects flu cases to peak in about two weeks.

Health minister Simon Harris said "exceptional measures" are being taken to reduce overcrowding.

"While recognising that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, we must continue to ensure the lessons that can be learned from those hospitals performing better are applied across the system," he said.

"I want to reassure the public that all the Winter Plan measures funded by increased investment by Government, like increased access to home care, transitional care and diagnostics along with additional acute bed capacity, are being implemented to deal with the extra pressures our health service is experiencing.

"I've today made very clear to the HSE that they have my support in taking any enhanced measures necessary to help increase discharges, most particularly access to diagnostics, senior clinical attendance and community supports."