A total of 66 patients were left waiting for a bed in the Midlands Regional Hospitals of Mullingar and Tullamore, and at Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe on Tuesday this week, according to figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO ).
Nationally, 551 people were waiting for beds at time of writing, down from 677 on January 2. This week, while overcrowding in these three Midlands hospitals is down from a record-breaking peak of 100 on January 2, the INMO have declared the situation a “national emergency,” and have called on the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, to take immediate action to address the issue.
Following a meeting with members of the Emergency Department taskforce, Minister Harris pledged to fix the situation in emergency departments and break the cycle of overcrowding in the health service.
“I’m committed to pursuing three priorities in 2018 to achieve this – increasing bed capacity using evidence provided by the bed capacity review, implementing reform through Sláintecare and increasing services provided through Primary Care by negotiating a new GP contract,” the minister said. “I will bring the bed capacity review to Government in the coming weeks and this will feed into the Government’s capital plan.”
Speaking after the meeting, INMO General Secretary, Phil Ni Sheaghdha, said: “There is a realisation by all that acute beds are needed to correct the capacity problem and that without additional nurses such beds cannot be put into use. Current efforts to recruit and retain nurses are failing and it is clear that real investment and incentives are needed to attract and retain sufficient numbers of nurses if utilisation of the additional beds is to be realised.”
As overcrowding continues, the welfare of both patients and staff is at stake. The INMO point out that an increase in a nurse’s workload of just one patient increases the likelihood of an inpatient dying in hospital by seven per cent. Likewise, h igh levels of burnout have been reported amongst nurses working overcrowded environments.