A leading local union official is calling on the Government to provide funding on a phased basis to open much needed beds at the west’s flagship hospital.
Noreen Muldoon, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s industrial relations officer in the west, made her comment as overcrowding continues to be an issue at University Hospital Galway’s emergency department [ED].
Figures provided by the INMO’s “trolley watch” survey, which is compiled daily, point to an “awful lot” of patients lying on trolleys, she said. Sometimes this was like “a ward full of patients” lying there, she outlined.
Figures for January 2010 showed the number of patients on trolleys at UHG and at Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe had more than doubled compared with the same month three years ago.
“There were 170 patients on trolleys in UHG in January 2007 while in January 2010 there were 365. There were 71 in Portiuncula Hospital for the same month in 2007 but there were 148 in January 2010.”
She attributes the increasing numbers to the reduction in hospital beds, swine flu and the fact that people who should have been admitted earlier but were unable to due to bed shortages may now present as emergencies.
Ms Muldoon estimates that 80 beds in all have been closed at UHG and Merlin Park hospitals over a period of time. In addition, two wards at UHG have become five day wards therefore cutting bed numbers further. A theatre has also been closed at the facility on an ongoing basis, she says.
This is creating a “very difficult” situation for patients and relatives, she stresses. “It is also extremely difficult for our members at the same time as lots of beds are closed. It is very frustrating, because of the moratorium on recruitment there is no replacement of staff. Those working there are stretched to the limit. We can’t applaud our members enough for the service they provide with such dignity and respect. During the bad weather big numbers stayed in town, mostly at their own expense, to ensure a service would be provided.”
She is appealing to the Government to open the closed beds. “Start by opening a number at a time. It is totally unacceptable that an area such as Galway which has UHG as a tertiary referral centre for the west of Ireland has a shortage of beds. A fantastic service is being provided here with all the specialities. But people are being put to the pin of their collar to provide a safe and manageable service.
“I would say ‘Open the beds that are closed now and allow people the dignity of being cared for while they are ill.’ Open the beds on a phased basis. This is not the answer to all the ills but it would go a long way to enable people to be cared for in beds.”