Growing pressure on beds creates long waiting times for ED patients

Patients attending University Hospital Galway's emergency department (ED ) who are waiting to be admitted to a bed on a ward, continue to experience long delays again this week due to pressure on bed capacity.

There were 70 patients waiting on trolleys on Tuesday in the ED, the acute surgical assessment unit, and the acute medical unit, according to the hospital.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, which compiles a daily trolley watch record, reported yesterday (Wednesday ) that there were 29 patients waiting for beds in the facility's emergency department.

A total of 22 patients were awaiting beds at Portiuncula University Hospital on the same day, the nursing union reported. Ten of these were waiting in the emergency department while 12 were waiting for beds elsewhere in wards. The previous day there were five patients awaiting beds in the Ballinasloe hospital, two in the ED and three in wards.

The "significant" delays people are experiencing in UHG's emergency department is attributed to the "serious" impact of Covid-19, a spokesperson for the Saolta University Health Care Group, which manages seven public hospitals on five sites (in Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, and Donegal ) in the west and north-west of the country said earlier this week.

The west's biggest hospital apologised to patients who are waiting for long periods to be admitted to the facility.

"University Hospital Galway would like to apologise for the significant delays being experienced by patients who are waiting to be admitted to a bed on a ward. There were 70 patients on trolleys in the emergency department, acute surgical assessment unit and acute medical unit [on Tuesday]."

The spokesperson outlined the hospital has been treating the highest number of patients with Covid-19 in the country since January 11. It is also dealing with ward closures due to outbreaks of the virus.

"Currently there are 88 patients with Covid-19 being treated in the hospital on four Covid-19 dedicated wards. In addition, there are three further wards closed due to outbreaks.

"The pressure on bed capacity is resulting in long delays for patients who need to be admitted for ongoing treatment."

All routine surgeries and some scheduled operations are being postponed, according to the hospital. The spokesperson said that patients are being contacted directly if their procedure is postponed.

University Hospital Galway is appealing to people to only attend the facility if their health issue is urgent.

"The hospital is asking the public to contact their GP during normal surgery hours or the Westdoc GP out-of-hours service in the first instance if their health problem is not urgent.

"For minor injuries, the injury unit in Roscommon University Hospital is open from 8am to 8pm every day and treats a range of injuries in both adults and children over five years of age.

Meanwhile an INMO spokesperson said there was an "unacceptably high" number of patients on trolleys throughout the country this week. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that more than 900 people with Covid-19 were admitted to hospitals, she said.

Phil Ní Sheaghdha stated that nurses and midwives have "endured intense stress" for almost two years as the pandemic has persisted and evolved with the emergence of new variants.

"Despite exhaustion, nurses, and midwives continue to provide care to patients under extremely difficult conditions.

"The directive from the chief executive of the HSE that was issued at the start of January for hospitals to curtail all non-emergency activity must be extended until the end of January in order to allow our members carry out their work safely."

She added that hospital overcrowding demands attention and called for urgent action to be taken on the issue.

"Covid-19 is still very much with us. Our nurses and midwives are still dealing with very sick patients. This unacceptable level of overcrowding must not be allowed to continue over the coming weeks."


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