Management at University Hospital Galway are accessing beds in private nursing homes on a daily basis in a bid to facilitate discharges and ease the pressure on its overburdened emergency department.
The initiative is part of an effort to cope with additional demands on its service. Saolta University Health Care Group, which runs the hospital, reported on Tuesday morning that the ED was "extremely busy" with "significant" numbers of patients awaiting admission. According to the Irish Nurses' and Midwives' Organisation's trolley watch figures there were 22 patients on trolleys and seven inappropriately accommodated in wards on the day.
The hospital took a number of measures to respond to the pressure on its services. These included the deferral of "most" elective surgeries, using all available bed capacity, accessing convalescent beds in nursing homes to facilitate discharges, ensuring there were no unnecessary delays for diagnostic tests for patients in the ED and working closely with all the hospitals in the Saolta group to ensure that capacity on all sites was maximised.
In a statement the hospital apologised to patients and their families for the delays being experienced.
"We regret having to postpone any elective procedure and recognise that it can be distressing for patients and their families. We apologise to patients for the distress this deferral may cause.
"We have implemented the full capacity protocol and all efforts are being made to identify patients who are appropriate for discharge. We have also deferred non urgent elective procedures."
Hospital management is encouraging the public to visit the emergency department only in the case of "real" emergencies. "We would also advise people to contact their GP or GP out-of-hours service in the first instance."
Noreen Muldoon, the INMO's industrial relations officer in the west, says there is no "easy fix" for the ED problem.
"The situation will not be resolved until there is additional space available.