Nurse shortages ‘driving’ record patient waits in Ireland in July

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said this year marks the highest number on record for the month of July for patients left waiting for a bed in hospital, since the union started recording the figures in 2006.

“Each day there are hundreds of patients languishing in corridors, waiting for a hospital bed”

Tony Fitzpatrick

According to the INMO, 9,439 patients had to wait in hospital without a bed in July this year – an increase of 33% since July 2018.

When records began in 2006, there were 3,460 patients on trolleys throughout the month of July – just over a third of this year’s figure, INMO noted.

The union highlighted that out of the 9,000 plus patients left waiting for a bed, 45 were children.

The INMO’s director of industrial relations, Tony Fitzpatrick, said it was nurse vacancies that were causing “direct negative consequences” for patients.

He said: “Each day there are hundreds of patients languishing in corridors, waiting for a hospital bed. Currently over 700 patients cannot be discharged from hospital.

“Vital roles across all services, at all grades, in all hospitals are left unfilled,” said Mr Fitzpatrick. “This has direct negative consequences for patients.

“We expect increased demands on the health service in winter, but now even summer sees patients crammed into corridors on trolleys. It is creating unacceptable risks for patients and health workers alike,” he added.

Among the hospitals with the highest numbers for the country was University Hospital Limerick, which saw 1,293 patients forced to wait without a bed, and 1,079 in Cork University Hospital.

Meanwhile, 707 patients were left waiting at the University Hospital Galway, 590 at University Hospital Waterford and 560 at Mater Misericordiae.

In response to the figures, a spokeswoman for the Health and Safety Executive said: ”Acute hospitals are continuing to see a year on year increase in the number of patients requiring treatment and care .

“Last week emergency department patient attendances were up 0.3% on the same week last year while hospital admissions were down 1.3%,” she said. 

“Year to date emergecny department attendances at the end of June were 4.4% higher when compared to last year,” she added.

“119,610 patient attendances were recorded in our 29 emergency departments in June, the latest month for which validated data is available- 32,295 of these patients were admitted to hospital for further treatment,” the spokeswoman said.

“The HSE regrets that any patient should have to wait for admission from emergency department to a hospital ward,” she said. “All patients admitted from emergency department remain under the care of our emergency department staff until they can transfer to the appropriate hospital ward.”