Providing more effective primary care in the community is one of the keys to easing the pressure on University Hospital Galway which is functioning on a “knife-edge”, Fine Gael senator Fidelma Healy Eames said this week.
She was commenting in the wake of recent criticism from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation which insisted the regional hospital was in “crisis” with patients suffering “intolerable conditions” and its members at “breaking point”. A 78-year-old man spent four nights on a trolley last week.
Senator Healy Eames, who visited the hospital’s emergency department at the weekend, said lack of beds appears to be the biggest problem.
The delays by some consultants in discharging patients, the failure of the HSE to appoint 12 additional theatre nurses, and the absence of sufficient Fair Deal [nursing home support ] funding are additional contributory factors, she said.
“I’ve been getting calls from the public about the overcrowding at the A&E and I went in to see for myself on Saturday evening. The hospital has been moving patients on trolleys into the medical assessment unit to cope with the overflow. But this is defeating the purpose of the unit, it’s for GPs to directly refer people there. UHG is a designated centre of excellence, it cannot function if it is overwhelmed. We are choking it.
The senator said because sufficent funding for the Fair Deal scheme was not in place [“The fund was severely depleted when Health Minister James Reilly came into office”] about 36 patients (“more than would fill one ward” ) must wait at UHG until nursing home beds become available. Meanwhile there were 38 patients on trolleys one morning in the emergency department.
“The hospital is functioning on a knife edge, one nurse said it was struggling. Space is the biggest issue, beds need to be emptied. It is felt that some consultants are not doing their rounds quickly enough and consequently cannot discharge patients fast enough. Also, the 12 additional theatre nurses [whose recruitment was sanctioned by the Minister for Health to help ease waiting lists for surgical procedures at UHG] have not yet been appointed by the HSE. It must act faster.
“There is an absolute need to shift the balance, where possible, from hospital to community care, also. This would ease the pressure on UHG’s emergency department but will take time and money. Some GPs almost have their own primary care centres. They need to educate people more about the role of A&E as well.”
Senator Healy Eames said she was concerned about nurses at the hospital, especially their need to practice safely.
“I’m taking it on to be the eyes and ears in Galway and share with Minister Reilly what is happening. There is a need to seek an urgent meeting with him. He is good to kick into action.”
Meanwhile the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation is calling for all closed beds to be opened at the regional hospital.