Flu 'not to blame for ED overcrowding'

Lack of beds and staff real problem - IMO
  • Deborah Condon

The Government has been criticised for blaming the current overcrowding problems in Emergency Departments (EDs) on an increased number of flu cases.

The HSE this week confirmed that many hospitals are experiencing a ‘significant surge in demand', due to an increase in the number of flu and winter vomiting bug cases.

Furthermore on Tuesday (January 3), a record 612 patients were waiting on trolleys in hospitals nationwide. According to the figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation's, the worst affected hospitals on this day were University Hospital Limerick (46 on trolleys), the Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise (42), the Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore (41) and St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny (41).

The worst affected hospital in Dublin was Tallaght Hospital, with 22 patients on trolleys.

The figures were described by the INMO as ‘truly shocking'.

The Government has said that an increase in flu and winter vomiting bug cases has added to the pressures being faced by the country's EDs. However responding to this, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), which represents doctors, has insisted that flu is not the problem.

A lack of beds, a lack of staff and a poorly resourced GP infrastructure are to blame, it has said.

"Politicians often complicate what is a very simple explanation for our overcrowding crisis. It's not because of seasonal issues or a spike in flu cases. It's because politicians knowingly and deliberately took 1,600 beds out of our hospitals, introduced policies that were a direct cause of doctors emigrating and failed to invest in general practice," commented consultant in emergency medicine, Dr Peadar Gilligan, who is chairman of the IMO Consultant Committee.

Until the Government invests in extra beds for public hospitals and creates a working environment that is attractive for staff, nothing will change, he pointed out.

He said that the current trolley figures come as no surprise to frontline workers and in fact, ‘it is nothing short of a miracle that they are not even higher'.

"It's time to treat this matter with the seriousness it deserves rather than expressing disappointment and surprise each time it manifests itself," Dr Gilligan noted.

He called on the Government to ‘commit the funds required' to properly run the health service.



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