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Trolley numbers still high as beds reopen
[Posted: Thu 06/01/2011 by Niall Hunter, Editor www.irishhealth.com]
Hospital emergency department trolley numbers have dropped today, but there are still nearly 500 patients awaiting admission on trolleys.
Meanwhile, emergency medicine consultants say the current ED overcrowding crisis is putting patient safety throughout the whole health system at grave risk, and have criticised the HSE for blaming swine flu for the crisis.
According to latest figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), there were 492 patients on trolleys in hospitals around the country this morning, following the record figure of 569 yesterday.
The Department of Health said last night that hospitals were reopening closed beds, cancelling non-emergency procedures and using day wards for A&E activity in order to deal with the current capacity crisis.
There are fears that the A&E and beds crisis could worsen next week when new junior doctors take up new rotational posts. It is expected that many junior doctors posts in EDs will not be filled from next week, leading to even greater pressure on services.
Hospitals have been finding it increasingly difficult to fill junior doctor posts over the past year, with many Irish doctors seeking work abroad instead due to a combination of factors, including reduced overtime payments and allowances and lack of training content in posts in Ireland.
The Irish Association for Emergency Medicine (IAEM) said today that boarding hospital inpatients in emergency departments results in increased numbers of deaths among this group of ill patients, compared to similar patients who are admitted to a hospital ward in a timely fashion.
"ED overcrowding is therefore potentially a matter of life and death for patients, over and above their experience of being treated in surroundings that are inappropriate and which compromise their dignity," the IAEM said.
The emergency consultants have pointed out that despite the outbreak of swine flu being cited as a factor in the current capacity crisis, relatively few patients with the H1N1 virus have required hospital admission to date.
"Contrary to the line taken by the HSE, patients with seasonal influenza have not contributed significantly to the current excess of inpatients being boarded in EDs", the IAEM said.
The Association said however, that seriously ill patients on trolleys would be at high risk of picking up the H1N1 bug from other patients attending the ED.
The IAEM called on the HSE and Department of Health to immediately facilitate the timely admission of inpatients. It says the primary problem behind the current crisis is the lack of available beds to deal with the current workload in the health service, and not seasonal flu.
Read more on the trolley crisis here
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