The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO ) has called for immediate action to be taken in light of overcrowding in several hospital emergency departments across the country, including the Midland Regional Hospital in Mullingar.
The highest ever numbers of patients on trolleys was recorded on Tuesday this week, when 601 patients were on trolleys in emergency departments or wards in hospitals across the country.
On Sunday members of the public were asked not to attend the emergency department (ED ) at Mullingar Hospital unless it was absolutely necessary, due to overcrowding. Nineteen people were waiting for admission on trolleys in the ED at that time.
INMO general secretary Liam Doran said the ED in Mullingar was in “meltdown”, with patients being turned away, and that the situation was “unforgivable”.
By Monday there were a total of 33 people on trolleys - 23 in the ED and 10 on wards. This figure was back to 30 by Tuesday - 20 in the ED and 10 in wards - and day surgeries at the hospital were cancelled. It is understood the situation has since improved.
In contrast, Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, had 12 patients on trolleys on Tuesday, while Roscommon County Hospital had none.
On Monday, the HSE released a statement saying steps were being taken in Mullingar “to cope with the additional demand for services and to prioritise care for those who need it most”.
“The hospital has a policy for dealing with surges in activity, as have been experienced in recent days, including increasing the number of clinical ward rounds being undertaken to ensure that any patients who are ready to go home are discharged and supported as necessary by community-based care services, temporarily opening beds where deemed necessary, implementing ambulance bypass protocols, and managing the volume of elective surgeries being undertaken in the hospital.”
The INMO is now calling for an immediate meeting of the Emergency Department Taskforce, established by the Minister for Health, to agree on measures to alleviate the crisis.
“We must act collectively, in the interests of these vulnerable patients and the staff trying to provide care to them, to alleviate the indignity, loss of privacy, and compromising of patient care arising from this overcrowding crisis,” said INMO general secretary Liam Doran.
Local Sinn Féin councillor Paul Hogan said this week’s events showed that “Government policies have decimated the health services”.
“The Health Minister needs to act now to ensure that these figures don’t increase further. Patients have been told to not attend [Mullingar hospital] unless they are an ‘absolute emergency’. I ask how patients are supposed to be able to diagnose themselves and determine if they are an ‘absolute emergency’,” he said.