Overcrowding in hospitals set to continue, warns INMO

by Rose Barrett
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Trolley crisis 2018

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) says the level of overcrowding in recent days at hospitals across the country precedes all numbers recorded for this time of year.

Hospitals in Dublin, and nationwide, claims the INMO are struggling to cope with the numbers presenting at emergency services, but notably, exhausted staff are not able to take necessary breaks nor to deliver safe care.

Yesterday evening, the organisation called on public and private hospitals to unite, to alleviate the growing crisis and to prevent the situation increasing.

Phil Ní Sheaghdha stated emergency measures must be put into place immediately as soon, “it will be impossible to deal with in any safe way”.

She told RTÉ “570 people sick enough to be admitted to hospital and not enough beds”, figures which normally would nt be recorded until the New Year

People are presenting at Emergency Departments as GP clinics are closed over the festive season, and even the emergency GP services are under enormous pressure.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) stated it approved of GPs opening for additional clinics during the current crisis but as yet, it is not known, how many locums will sign up for a new scheme.

Along with the increased number of Covid cases reported, the pressure on the health services was caused by a spike in Strep A, RSP respiratory virus, influenza, scarlet fever, etc and the current crisis is set to continue for several weeks yet.

As early as September last, the Dublin Gazette carried a warning that Ireland was about to be hit by a ‘twindemic’, i.e a resurgence in Covid and influenza: https://dublingazette.com/dublinlocalmatters/news/winter-warning-covid-and-flu-waves-356788/

The HSE measures include supports and grants to allow GPs to extend existing clinics, albeit both the HSE and the IMO  ( Irish Medical Organisation)say not all practices will be in a position to do this. It was suggested that evening clinics may be added from 5-7pm or additional clinics on Saturdays from 9am-1pm.

Criticism has been levelled at the Department of Health and the HSE stating this situation was looming and flagged over recent months.

President of the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine, Dr Fergal Hickey told RTÉ’s Drivetime: “Emergency departments have been under pressure for months on end and this is just the latest in a series of worsening situations,” he said.

He acknowledged that traditionally there is not a huge increase in patients presenting during Christmas week – the current crisis of patients on trolleys is as a result of a growth in recent months for emergency services, and he was not confident that additional GP hours or overtime would make any difference.

“The people who end up on trolleys are the people who require hospital admission, so whether they come directly to the emergency department or are referred by a GP, if there isn’t a bed for them, then they are going to end up in a situation where they are going to be on trolleys,” he said.

Medical Director of the Irish College for General Practitioners (ICGP), Dr Diarmuid Quinlan, noted many GPs are already working to capacity.

Dr Quinlan added that the ICGP called on the government to set up a working group to look at solutions to the workforce and workload crisis in general practice – in October last! He stated the organisation called on Minister Stephen Donnelly to set up a working group, noting it was an urgent requirement to “implement innovative solutions and also resource these solutions.”

Despite some rumours alluding to a shortage of antibiotics, Dr Quinlan noted there is no cause for concern in this area albeit some pharmacies may have distribution issues.

Vulnerable and elderly people are urged to wear masks when out in public or visiting family, and request that visitors should similarly wear masks to prevent the spread of viruses. Persons experiencing cold or flu symptoms should stay at home, get fresh air but not to circulate in public places.

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