YESTERDAY’S report from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation revealed almost 100,000 people were waiting on hospital trolleys across the country last year, with over six and a half thousand of those in University Hospital Galway.
The figures show a shocking 96% increase between 2007 and 2017, and a 6% year-on-year increase from 2015.
UHG was third only to University Hospital Limerick and Cork University Hospital in the grim trolley league table, with the Limerick hospital clocking nearly 9,000 patients waiting on hospital trolleys over the course of last year.
Opposition parties were quick to point out the obvious, with words such as ‘unacceptable’ (which have almost lost their meaning) being thrown around once again, left, right and centre.
In the right and centre, Billy Kelleher TD commented on the 656 people waiting for a bed in hospitals yesterday, the highest number since records began.
“The figures released today are truly extraordinary and paint a very vivid picture of just how dire the overcrowding crisis in our hospitals has become. Despite assurances from Minister Simon Harris that this year’s winter initiative would be able to deal with the expected increase in pressure on our health system, the reality is that the plan is failing miserably”, he said.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s Padraig Mac Lochlainn focused on the drastic increase at Letterkenny University Hospital.
“These numbers are truly shocking and they are the result of the intentional Government policy of cuts and recruitment embargoes over the years,” he said. “They expose the abject failure of the Government to deal with this crisis and a damning indictment of the ‘confidence and supply’ deal between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.”
The crisis has worsened; but during the old age of the Celtic Tiger, the figures were still high. From 2006 through 2010, under Fianna Fail-led governments, the number of people waiting on trolleys stood at 55,720, 50,402, 59435, 63,713 and 75,859.
So, what is the solution to this nonsense which continues year after year? The country had people hanging off trolleys in the good times, so what chance do we have now.
Well, Simon says we have a plan. So we have a plan.
Thanks to everyone working in health service today in difficult circumstances. Want them & our patients to know that no effort is being spared to improve this situation. This new year bed capacity plan & Slaintecare plans will help build a better future & health service we want
— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) 2 January 2018
Phil Ni Sheaghdha, the newly appointed General Secretary of the INMO, said that immediate action is required.
“Our figures show that on December 28 and 29, 11 of the 29 hospitals used their full capacity protocol and placed additional patients on wards. Under HSE policy, the Joint Chairs of the Task Force must be notified in advance of use of Full Capacity Protocol.
“I can confirm that no notification was provided, by any hospital, to me and that is proof enough to demonstrate an abandonment of the system for dealing with overcrowding.
“Immediate and dramatic action is now required if further misery and yet again, record-breaking overcrowding levels, are to be avoided as the New Year dawns,” said the INMO General Secretary.
But of course it is not a case of merely pumping money into the healthcare system. Investment must go hand-in-hand with a small bit of lateral thinking, which often seems to be completely absent.
Figures recently obtained by Billy Kelleher TD from the HSE revealed that there were 15,830 unnecessary delayed discharges every month, which is 58 per day.
Taking this figure into consideration, the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Health argued that progress is possible if the will and resourcing is put in place.
What progress will be made this year remains to be seen. But at the end of the day – and the start of the year – at least we can all agree on one thing, and thank all of those who are on the inside, often under immense pressure.
Thanks to all working in our health service for their incredible dedication through 2017 & particularly over Christmas period. We are entering a difficult few weeks & with extra pressure of flu season. Will work to increase bed capacity & drive the reform our health service needs
— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) 1 January 2018