OVERCROWDING at the region’s main hospital has surpassed the 1,000 mark for the third consecutive month.
According to monthly figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), a total of 1,102 patients were on trolleys at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) during the month of May – the worst-affected hospital in the country.
The figure is nearly 300 higher than the next most overcrowded hospital, Cork University Hospital, with 824 patients awaiting a bed throughout May.
While the numbers have slightly decreased since the month of April, INMO general secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha is fearful for the months ahead.
“We are entering the milder summer months, when predictable, seasonal illnesses are lower yet the level of overcrowding is worsening,” she said.
“Overcrowding in May 2019 is now at the same level as January five years ago.
“Clearly this is a capacity deficit and requires immediate investment in additional hospital beds.
“Considering the evidence of this continued increasing activity in our public hearth service, it is simply unacceptable that the HSE and Department of Health have introduced a recruitment pause.
“We know that this will simply lead to a chronic understaffing and overcrowding problem without any regard to person-centred solutions.
“Overcrowding and understaffing mean patients take longer to recover. That means worse care, higher costs, and greater risk of infection. Investment in beds and safe staffing is key to resolving this ongoing crisis,” added Ms Ni Sheaghdha.
When compared to figures for May last year, UHL has experienced a 28 per cent increase in overcrowding figures for the same month this year.
Nationally, a total of 9,015 patients were forced to wait in public hospitals without a hospital bed – an increase of 114 per cent since May 2006, when trolley statistics were first recorded.
Meanwhile, a total of just 12 people awaited a bed at Ennis Hospital throughout the month of May, coinciding with the ten-year anniversary of the closure of 24-hour accident and emergency services at the county town facility.
On Wednesday, June 12 a total of 50 patients were on trolleys at University Hospital Limerick. Of those, 26 people were waiting in the region’s only 24-hour emergency department, with a further 24 patients waiting for a bed in various wards throughout the Dooradoyle-based hospital.