Fianna Fáil general election candidate Cllr Lisa Chambers claimed last weekend that "overflow from A&E and patients on trolleys were moved to the Medical Assessment Unit and Day Services Unit to hide the true scale of the problem from the eyes of An Taoiseach" when he was visiting the hospital last Friday to open a new cystic fibrosis unit.
However in a statement issued in response to the claims from the Taoiseach's office they said: "The Taoiseach's office has confirmed with Mayo University Hospital that there was no alteration in procedures in the A&E unit on Friday when the new €1.4 million Cystic Fibrosis Unit was opened. This was a very positive day for the hospital and a fantastic day for all those involved in the unit. The Taoiseach was delighted to be attending to officially open the unit and commended all those involved in their hard work. It is most unfortunate and disappointing that some politicians want to turn the occasion into an election football and would use inaccurate information to do so."
Cllr Chambers said in her statement: "This situation cannot continue, patients' lives are being put at risk and there is no dignity for patients who are simply moved out of sight rather than being moved to a bed they badly need. Over the weekend I was informed there were 17 patients in the Medical Assessment Unit and Day Services Unit, who would have been in the A&E department otherwise. It is believed they were moved on Friday in advance of the Taoiseach's visit. These units are generally vacant at the weekend and operate Monday to Friday."
"The problem with this is that they are not given beds on the ward where they should be and it is masking over the problem. Apparently this also happened two weeks ago and because there was a delay in moving the patients out of those units come Monday, the day procedures due to begin Monday morning were delayed until lunchtime, so other vital services and procedures, such as scopes, are being affected as this crisis persists and grows."
In a clarification from Mayo University Hospital issued on the Taoiseach's statement, a spokesperson for the hospital said: "It is never acceptable to staff at Mayo University Hospital that patients wait long periods in the Emergency Department to be admitted to the hospital. We continually strive to reduce and eliminate the numbers of patients waiting on trolleys and the length of time they are waiting. Patients are at the heart of everything we do and we aim at all times to provide the highest quality of service to our patients. Under no circumstances would a doctor, nurse or a manager in Mayo University Hospital move patients to another clinical area on any grounds other than for clinical reasons or in the best interest of patients.
"We would not transfer or move a patient because of the visit of An Taoiseach or indeed anyone else. When the hospital anticipates that there is going to be high numbers on trolleys, we initiate an escalation plan in order to reduce the number of patients on trolleys. One of these steps is to transfer patients to beds in the Acute Medical Assessment Unit and the Surgical Day Unit. Due to the current demand for medical beds, the beds in the medical assessment unit have been used almost continuously since early January. This was the case on Friday, as it has been on a regular basis for the past three weeks, when the demand for beds exceeded the number of available beds in the hospital. I would like to reassure the public that all staff at Mayo University Hospital will continue to do everything in our control to reduce the length of time patients must wait to be admitted to the hospital."