The number of patients left waiting on hospital trolleys during the first 11 months of this year was 95% higher than the same period a decade ago, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has said.
According to its latest ‘Trolley/Ward Watch' figures, 91,147 patients were left waiting on trolleys between January and November of this year compared to 46,853 during this period in 2007.
This also marks a 6% increase when compared with the first 11 months of last year.
However, the news is not all bad. Last month's trolley figures were 7% lower than November 2016 - 8,688 compared to 9,306 last year. But some hospitals still had major problems, with University Hospital Limerick almost hitting the 900-mark last month.
The figures show that the hospitals with the highest number of patients on trolleys in November were:
-University Hospital Limerick (878)
-University Hospital Cork (651)
-University Hospital Waterford (624)
-University Hospital Galway (539)
-Letterkenny General Hospital (502)
The worst hit Dublin hospital was Tallaght Hospital with 451 patients on trolleys.
The INMO noted that last month, of the 8,688 patients left waiting on trolleys, 2,476 of these were placed on trolleys/extra beds in inpatient wards. The organisation insisted that placing extra patients on understaffed inpatient wards ‘is not an appropriate or effective response to the continuing overcrowding crisis'.
"Overcrowding wards simply compromises the care of all patients on that ward, as these wards are already short staffed, resulting in essential patient care being delayed or left undone (missed care). Overcrowded wards are also contrary to best practice and increase the risk of cross-infection between patients," it said.
INMO general secretary, Liam Doran, described this increase of patients on inpatient wards as ‘most disturbing'.
"It suggests hospital management are increasingly repeating the mistakes of the past. Overcrowding wards have never solved the problem of hospital overcrowding. This will only be done through additional acute beds," he said.
The Emergency Department (ED) Taskforce is due to meet on December 7 and the INMO will be seeking confirmation that hospitals are allowed to undertake certain measures to help tackle this crisis, including opening all available beds and introducing incentivised recruitment/retention packages to ensure additional nursing staff are employed to deal with the high demand.