Minister urged to fund Ballina step-down beds to ease Mayo General overcrowding

Mayo Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin is calling on the Minister for Health James Reilly to intervene in what she has called the “serious ongoing trolley problem at Mayo General Hospital” by funding the opening of 12 step-down beds in Ballina District Hospital.

The cost to the State of a patient in a medical bed in Mayo General Hospital is €900 a day, compared to €1,000 a week in Ballina District Hospital, according to Dep Mulherin who said the move would make economic sense.

The Ballina deputy is also calling for step-down beds at Swinford and Belmullet district hospitals to be part of the solution to the trolley issue that is getting worse at Mayo General and which affects on average 10 to 12 patients a day.

Speaking in the Dáil, Dep Mulherin said: “It is imperative funding is made available for two intermediate care teams in County Mayo. This will allow patients, where appropriate, to receive hospital-style treatment in their homes. In many cases, it would prevent these people being admitted to hospital in the first place and allow for early discharge.”

Dep Mulherin is seeking “funding” and “urgent intervention” and while she says management has a proven track record in tackling the trolley issue, external factors are having an impact with the hospital needing the support of the Minister and the Department.

Dep Mulherin continued: “I raise this matter on account of the serious ongoing trolley problem at Mayo General Hospital, which is in the red zone as it has between 10 and 12 patients, on average, on hospital trolleys day after day. The problem has been intensifying over the past year and is getting worse. It affects elderly people, who are not fit to be left lying on trolleys.”

In 2011 Mayo General got on top of the trolley problem with a 64 per cent reduction in the number of people on trolleys. This was at a time when the average national reduction was only 20 per cent and proves that hospital management “knows it stuff”, according to Dep Mulherin.

“However, there was a significant increase of eight per cent in people presenting at the accident and emergency unit in 2012, together with an eight per cent increase in the number of medical patients being treated in the hospital. One of the reasons for this is that five per cent of patients are from Roscommon,” highlighted the deputy.

She also alluded to the fact that GPs are making fewer house calls, meaning more patients are presenting at accident and emergency and there is a greater dependance on the public health system. According to Dep Mulherin the biggest problem causing overcrowding at Mayo General is delayed discharge. “This week, the average delayed discharge daily figure is 16 patients. Last week it was 12. Over the previous weeks a similar pattern has emerged. These patients are passing their time in an acute hospital bed and should be transferred into step-down facilities. The problem is a lack of step-down facilities available in the county. A startling statistic is that following the closure of 12 step-down beds in Ballina District Hospital since the end of 2011, the number of delayed discharges at Mayo General Hospital has increased by 400 per cent. The blockage at Mayo General Hospital is chronic and needs urgent intervention, which is what I seek. I acknowledge the €105,000 allocated from the special delivery unit this year and the €300,000 last year to support the acute medical assessment unit. These moneys were spent to good effect.”

Responding for the Minister, Dep Frances Fitzgerald said: “The provision of intermediate care options and the provision of clear pathways of care for older persons accessing the health care systems will continue to be developed in 2013, with specific emphasis on the provision of transitional intermediate type care to address the issue of unnecessary admissions to acute hospitals and the requirements for long-term care. This will build on the work commenced in 2012, which saw an investment of €11 million in these types of services.”

Dep Mulherin welcomed the response and asked that the chronic trolley problem at Mayo General be tackled as a matter of urgency and that some of the funding be made available in this regard.

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