Cate McCurry, PA
Up to 1,000 patients could be treated on trolleys on a single day in the weeks ahead as hospitals grapple with increasing pressures, consultants have warned.
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has expressed concerns over escalating levels of overcrowding in Emergency Departments.
Capacity limits have hit record highs, with 931 people waiting on hospital trolleys on Tuesday, falling to 838 people on Wednesday.
An IHCA spokesperson said current healthcare experiences were comparable to those at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is not inconceivable that we could see 1,000 admitted patients being treated on trolleys on a single day in the weeks ahead,” the spokesman said.
“Public hospital staff are working tirelessly, attempting to provide appropriate levels of care to patients.
“Consultants are on call 24/7, often practising over and above recommended levels, but the reality is there simply aren’t enough of us to meet increased demand. We are still working with 40% less consultant staffing in Ireland, compared to the EU average.
“What compounds this further is the failure of Government to put in place bed and staffing commitments dating back years.
“When consultants do eventually get to see patients, we face restricted care flows due to inadequate bed and theatre capacity, and required staffing levels.”
The HSE winter plan for 2022/2023 committed to appointing 51 additional emergency medicine consultants but so far 20 locum consultants were in place.
The IHCA said the Department of Health had “no credible plan” to put in place the 1,400 additional public hospital beds.
“As a result, those of us on the ground in hospitals and delivering care in the community are consistently left to firefight for ourselves with the limited and overstretched resources we have,” the spokesman added.
“We are in the midst of yet another public hospital crisis and the moral injury caused is extremely damaging at this stage.
“We must bring about the desperately needed additional capacity at a much faster pace. Increased capacity, physical infrastructure and facilities must be commissioned and funded by the Government and HSE urgently to ensure that public hospital services can be maintained and not allowed to deteriorate further.”