The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation is calling for all but “urgent emergency care” to be curtailed amid a mounting hospital crisis.
Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe was one of three hospitals singled out by the INMO as being in “crisis mode” due to high levels of A&E attendance.
The INMO is calling for an urgent Plan B from the HSE to tackle the “escalating” crisis in the health system due to emergency department overcrowding, elective procedures, and the latest COVID wave.
Phil Ní Sheaghdha, General Secretary of the INMO, said that from experience they that the 287 patients on trolleys this morning is likely to treble in early January.
“Our public health service is too small to try provide emergency care, COVID care and carry out elective treatments. Urgent elective work must be prioritised through the private hospital system”.
“We know from the INMO TrolleyWatch figures that Regional Hospital Mullingar, Letterkenny University Hospital, Portiuncula University Hospital have been acting in crisis mode in the last 48 hours because of high numbers of people presenting to their respective emergency departments.”
There have been 20 patients on trolleys without a bed at Portiuncula over the past two days, the fourth highest level in the country both times.
Phil Ní Sheaghdha said that there is always a spike in attendance at emergency departments between Christmas and the New Year, but that there are more factors to take into account this year.
“In the context of COVID, particularly with the highly transmissible Omicron variant, it is wholly irresponsible that we still do not have a Plan B in place for our scaling up capacity within our acute hospital system.”
“We need private hospitals on the pitch so our health service can act as one at this extremely difficult time.”
COVID-19 is also taking its toll on hospital staff, she added, with high levels of absences due to leave related to the virus.
“Anecdotally we are being told that many hospitals are having problems completing rotas,” Phil Ní Sheaghdha said.
“Our creaking health service is currently being held together by the goodwill of nurses and midwives who are cancelling annual leave and staying beyond their rostered time to ensure that wards are staffed.”