“Unacceptable”: over 50,000 on trolleys in year of the pandemic
At least 53,325 patients went without beds in Irish hospitals in 2020, new annual figures from the INMO show.
Over 30,000 of those were recorded since the COVID-19 virus arrived in Ireland.
Admitted patients waited on trolleys and chairs, often in corridors. Such overcrowding poses an infection control risk which the union branded “unacceptable”.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the HSE announced that they would adopt a zero-tolerance approach to trolleys. Monthly figures dropped to as low as 497 (April), but have been steadily increasing throughout the year to 4,353 (December).
The annual figures were roughly half what they were in 2019 (the highest year on record), yet many hospitals had more patients on trolleys this year than previous years.
The hospitals with the highest overall figures included:
- University Hospital Limerick: 9,843 (higher than 2017)
- Cork University Hospital: 6,503 (higher than 2016)
- Midlands Regional Hospital, Mullingar: 2,768 (higher than 2019)
- Sligo University Hospital: 2,530 (higher than 2017)
- Mater University Hospital: 2,368
INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said:
“Hospital overcrowding is unacceptable at the best of times, but it is doubly so when dealing with a contagious virus.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, the focus was on eliminating overcrowding. We now need immediate interventions to ensure our hospitals can cope with the volume of patients safely.
“Over 13,000 healthcare workers have been infected with COVID. Nearly 4,000 of them nurses. These are the staff we need to roll out the vaccine and to provide care. They cannot be safe in overcrowded, infectious environments.
“We are now effectively running two health services, catering for COVID and non-COVD cases. We wrote to the HSE yesterday seeking urgent action. They must bring private hospital capacity onstream and postpone electives.”
Notes to Editors:
Monthly breakdowns of trolley figures in 2020 are here.
Comparisons between 2020 and previous years are here.
Comparisons between December figures in 2020 and previous Decembers are here.