The overcrowding problem at Mayo General Hospital, which saw 36 patients on trolleys waiting to be admitted on Tuesday, appeared to have eased yesterday (Thursday ).
However the industrial relations officer with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation for Mayo, Regina Durcan, warned that the problem has not gone away and a major review of staffing levels and advance planning for busy periods at the hospital needs to be carried out.
Many acute hospitals across the country were hit by a serious overcrowding crisis during the busy Christmas and New Year period.
The crisis peaked on Tuesday when 601 patients were on trolleys and on wards awaiting admission — a record high, according to the INMO.
That number reduced to 371 yesterday.
Mayo General was one of the worst hit hospitals in the country on Monday and Tuesday when there were 34 and 36 patients on trolleys.
That figure dropped sharply to 22 on Wednesday and reduced to zero yesterday.
Ms Durcan said Mayo General Hospital is in a better position than some acute hospitals, with district hospitals in Ballina, Swinford, and Belmullet and the Sacred Heart Hospital available as step down facilities.
However she said there are still additional beds available in those hospitals which could be used to alleviate overcrowding but which are lying vacant due to staffing levels.
Ms Durcan said the likelihood of an overcrowding crisis was flagged for a long time by the INMO.
“Everyone knew this was going to happen. It should have been prevented,” she stated.
She said 5,000 nurses have been taken out of the Irish hospital system since 2009 and a major emphasis now needs to be placed on recruiting more nurses, making the recruitment process less bureaucratic, and introducing more advance planning for busy periods.
“The HSE needs to recognise that there is a shortage of nurses in this country or there is going to be a very serious problem down the road,” she warned.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar said earlier this week that all hospitals have escalation plans in place to manage overcrowding in the emergency department. He said he is ‘sick to death’ of the overcrowding issue and plans to tackle it once and for all.
Minister Varadkar said the overcrowding problem may worsen next week as that is normally the most critical time of the year for admissions.