Over 700 patients were left waiting on trolleys in hospitals nationwide on Monday, with University Hospital Limerick the worst hit hospital in the country.
According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), a record-breaking 714 patients were left waiting on trolleys on Monday, with 80 of these in University Hospital Limerick.
Other badly hit hospitals included University Hospital Galway (45), Cork University Hospital (43) and Tallaght University Hospital (40), which appealed to people to, where possible, attend their GP or out-of-hours GP service instead of presenting at the Emergency Department.
The INMO has repeatedly called for a two-week period in March to be declared, and treated as, an emergency period in the public health service. This would allow for extraordinary measures to be put in place to focus on recovering from the backlog created by Storm Emma.
The organisation insisted that ‘In this crisis, all measures to properly resource and staff the health service must be explored and the assistance of services in the private acute hospitals must also be sought'. It said that if emergency care is to be prioritised at this time, all non-urgent and routine cases need to be cancelled during this period.
"We saw record trolley figures last week with a total of 3,112 in just one week and on Monday, each daily total from that week has been surpassed by the extraordinary figure of 714.
"This upsurge was predictable and the INMO warned against inaction in the wake of Storm Emma. It is unfortunate for both healthcare staff and patients that these warnings were not heeded and that emergency measures sought have not been put in place," commented INMO general secretary, Phil Ni Sheaghdha.
The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has allocated an extra €5 million to the HSE to try to ease the current overcrowding. This money will be spent on home care packages and increased home help hours.
Responding to this, Home Care Direct, which puts people in direct contact with carers, has warned that the home care sector has its own capacity crisis, with rising waiting lists for home care packages.
"The reality is that the home care sector cannot cope with existing demand let alone an additional €5 million worth of care to resource. The reason for this is simple - agencies are finding it impossible to recruit and retain carers because of poor pay, zero hour contracts and offering precious little career pathways.
"Unless we start to make caring a more attractive career and become more innovative in how home care is delivered, home care will never be able to play its full role in the healthcare continuum and help reduce the pressures the acute sector is presently facing," commented Home Care Direct founder, Michael Harty.