Mayo General Hospital is one of the best performing hospitals in the country when it comes to the controversial issue of overcrowding.
The Castlebar hospital has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of patients waiting on trolleys for admission to the hospital, according to statistics released this week. The statistics referred to the first half of the year, January to June, and show a massive decrease of 58 per cent in the number of patients being treated on trolleys in comparison to the same period five years ago, completely contradicting the trend nationally. That translates to 485 patients in the first half of this year in comparison to 1,143 for the same period five years ago. There has been a 53 per cent decrease in overcrowding at Mayo General in the first six months of this year in comparison to the same period last year (1,029 patients reduced to 485 ) and the only other similarly performing hospital in the country is Letterkenny General Hospital.
The statistics have been welcomed by Mayo County Councillor Seamus Weir who is a member of the HSE West Regional Forum. Cllr Weir said these reductions in overcrowding were something the forum was pushing for but he said the objective is still to achieve “zero overcrowding”. Cllr Weir complimented the hospital manager, Charlie Meehan, who promised forum members that he would do his utmost to eradicate overcrowding. Minister of State Michael Ring also complimented the hospital manager and staff saying it was a particularly difficult time in the health service yet Mayo General was performing well.
The survey, which is compiled weekly by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO ), shows a 20 per cent increase in overcrowding at emergency departments nationwide in comparison to the same period in 2010.
Hospitals have seen a 37 per cent increase in overcrowding over the past five years; in 2006 the INMO declared the overcrowding situation a “national emergency”.
Measures to alleviate the problem were temporarily put in place in 2007, but were subsequently withdrawn, and the situation has since worsened across the country, except in Mayo which has seen a continued decrease in overcrowding since 2006 apart from a 31 per cent increase between 2009 and 2010.According to the HSE in order to achieve such a dramatic decrease in overcrowding there has been a more effective use of hospital beds. This has been achieved by changing the way surgery is planned and organised with more patients being treated on a day case basis or admitted on the day of procedure. In July 2010, medical and surgical wards were reconfigured to ensure the maximum use of all beds available within the hospital.
There has also been a “reduction in the number of patients who inappropriately occupy a hospital bed”, according to the HSE. This was achieved by greater integration of hospital and community services, resulting in more effective and improved discharge planning, development of packages of care to enable older persons to be supported in their own home following discharge from hospital, and greater utilisation of district hospital, continuing care, and nursing home beds.
Mayo General Hospital has also developed discharge planning protocols to ensure that discharges are effectively planned at the earliest opportunity. More medical patients are being assessed and treated on a day case basis in the medical assessment unit rather than been admitted to hospital. The hospital has also developed a contingency plan to address surges in referrals to the emergency department.
While the HSE has acknowledged “that significant progress has been made”, the service also recognises “that there is more to be done to ensure that no person has to wait on a trolley in the emergency department for a hospital bed for any significant period of time”.
The HSE has also confirmed to the Mayo Advertiser that the threat to A&E services at Mayo General no longer exists. In a statement it confirmed: “There are no plans to reduce ED (emergency department ) services at Mayo General Hospital.”
A shortage of 12 junior doctors out of 80 posts at Mayo General, mainly in the areas of emergency and medicine, was behind that threat but the HSE have also confirmed that they are “actively recruiting at present and monitoring the situation on an ongoing basis”.
The hospital received a small boost this week when it was announced that Mayo General was one of the hospitals that was to receive patients from Roscommon requiring acute emergency services from next Monday onwards due to cutbacks in A&E services at Roscommon County Hospital.