Over 7,700 patients were left waiting on trolleys for an inpatient bed last month - a 31% increase on the same period last year, new figures have shown.
According to the latest ‘Trolley/Ward Watch' figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), 7,713 patients were left waiting on trolleys during May of this year compared to 5,891 during May of last year.
These are the highest May trolley figures seen since records began in 2006. In May of that year, 4,214 people were left waiting on trolleys, therefore last month's figure of 7,713 represents an 83% increase.
The hospitals with the highest number of patients on trolleys last month included Dublin's Beaumont Hospital (782), Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda (718), University Hospital Limerick (538) and University Hospital Galway (524).
The INMO pointed out that in recent weeks, two patients who were over 100 years old, were left waiting on trolleys for more than 24 hours. However, it insisted that ‘every day is the same inside Emergency Departments (EDs), with elderly people on trolleys lined up, head to toe, along small narrow corridors'.
The organisation said that there are not enough nurses to care for these patients and at this point, many of its members are ‘embarrassed to have to face patients and their families who have to suffer this indignity'.
INMO general secretary, Liam Doran, described the treatment of these elderly patients as ‘a damning indictment of our society'.
"While some investment has been made recently, it is only the tip of the iceberg. The Government as a whole needs to take responsibility for this ongoing crisis as we continue to see a deterioration in the figures month on month," he commented.
He added that the stated target of having a reduction in the level of daily overcrowding in EDs by October 1 ‘is merely a pipe dream', unless there is major investment in acute beds, step-down beds, community services and recruitment initiatives for nursing and other staff.