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O’Reilly calls for investigation into preventable deaths caused by hospital overcrowding

2 July, 2019 - by Louise O'Reilly TD


Speaking this morning, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has called for an investigation into the number of preventable deaths in hospitals linked to hospital overcrowding.

The Dublin Fingal TD called for the investigation on the back of figures released from the HSE which showed that hospitals across the State invoked emergency full capacity protocol 1,598 times in the first 5 months of the year.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“Full capacity protocol is a hospital’s highest measure for dealing with emergency department overcrowding. In a properly functioning health service, it should be implemented only in exceptional circumstances, but some hospitals are implementing the protocol nearly every single day due to chronic overcrowding and understaffing.

“In just over the first 5 months of the year, hospitals across the State invoked the protocol 1,598 times. The consistent use of this emergency measure is a sign of a health service beyond crisis point, for patients and staff.

“The situation was worst in Limerick where full capacity protocol was invoked on 153 occasions, Waterford saw it 151 times, Cork 137 times, and Galway 135 times.

“When full capacity protocol is invoked, much of the normal activity of the hospital is suspended, additional patients are moved onto wards and hallways outside of emergency units and oftentimes elective surgeries at the hospital can be cancelled.

“The public are well aware of the dangers of overcrowding. Dr Fergal Hickey, former president of the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine, has stated many times that up to 350 patients are dying each year as a direct result of overcrowding in Irish hospitals.

“The overcrowding situation has become so severe that an investigation is needed into the number of preventable deaths caused by hospital overcrowding.

“Indeed, the overcrowding situation would be much worse only for the fantastic work of the staff in the health. They are overworked and understaffed and all the while they do excellent work under the most extreme pressures.

“As regards solutions, the only way to combat overcrowding is to invest in and expand primary care, increase the capacity of our hospitals, and hire more staff, none of which this government has prioritised in any meaningful way.” 

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