September 28, 2021

Harris under fire as 2019 confirmed worst ever year for hospital overcrowding

Wicklow TD and Minister for Health Simon Harris has come under pressure after it emerged 2019 was by far the worst ever year for overcrowding in our ailing hospitals.

The end-of-year analysis compiled by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) this week makes for grim reading for Minister Harris.

It confirmed 2019 was the worst-ever year for hospital overcrowding since records began – some 9% higher than 2018.

Over 1,300 of the patients were children younger than 16. The worst months for overcrowding in 2019 were November (12,055), October (11,452), and September (10,641).

The worst hospitals for overcrowding in the country in 2019 were: University Hospital Limerick (13,941), Cork University Hospital (11,066), University Hospital Galway (7,993) and South Tipperary General Hospital (6,942) and University Hospital Waterford (6,313).

The INMO said understaffing and a lack of capacity are the key factor driving overcrowding on our hospitals. There are 411 fewer inpatient beds in Ireland’s hospitals today than a decade ago, despite a larger, older population.

INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha warned: “Things are getting worse, not better. These figures should be falling, but we’re going the wrong direction. 2019 saw thousands more patients without proper beds – often at one of the most vulnerable points in their lives.

“Overcrowding used to be a winter problem. Now it’s an all-year problem, which gets worse in winter.

“The most frustrating part is that we know how to solve this problem: increase staffing and bed capacity, expand community care, and get going with the Sláintecare reforms.

“Instead, the HSE continues to enforce its rigid recruitment controls, starving hospitals and community services of the staff they need. Our members are rightly appalled by the conditions they are forced to work and care for patients in.

“2020 should be a year where understaffing and overcrowding are brought under control, but that simply won’t happen without investment and an end to the recruitment ban.”

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