A&Es in full blown crisis – Ó Caoláin
Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has demanded that the Government act urgently to address the record high figures released by the INMO (Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation) that show that 601 patients are being cared for on trolleys across the country.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said;
“There are 45 patients waiting for admission at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, 41 in Beaumont in Dublin and 36 in Mayo General. These extremely worrying numbers follow a period in which we traditionally see lower numbers in hospitals for elective procedures. This does not bode well for 2015. There can be no doubt but that Fine Gael and Labour policies have decimated the Health Services. They are also failing to act now when A&Es are in full blown crisis.
“One of the main causes of record level overcrowding in A&Es across the country is reduced numbers of nursing staff. Nursing staff have been undervalued by this Government and a lack of fulltime positions has seen an exodus of some of our most qualified staff.
“In Sinn Fein’s Alternative Budget we provided for an additional 1,000 nurses and midwife posts. This would have gone some way towards returning nursing levels in A&Es and on wards to levels that applied some 18 months ago. Fine Gael and Labour have overseen a decrease of 2,724 nurses since taking office. Let us not forget that this followed similarly large cuts by Fianna Fáil.
“There are now 800 patients in hospital beds around Ireland who are waiting to be discharged but cannot because of a lack of step-down facilities, long-term care, and nursing home beds. Such beds and placements have been cut back by 2,000 over recent years.
“We have also heard that the HSE Director for Acute Hospitals and Chairman of the Emergency Task Force, Dr Tony O'Connell, is to resign. This task force met for the first time last month but has evidently had little effect. How is the Minister going to ensure this crisis is dealt with? He has been very quiet on this issue. Why is he not telling us what he intends to do?
“The measures announced in the budget to ease pressure on A&Es have had little effect. I again call for additional funding for step down beds and extra nursing home places. The Health Minister needs to act now to ensure that these figures don’t increase further with the expected increased demand on our Health Services during the winter months still before us.
“The INMO has also called for the cancellation of all scheduled elective operations for two weeks. While this might grant a reprieve to the numbers on trolleys and to overstretched staff it will mean that those waiting for non-emergency but nonetheless essential surgery will have the date of their procedures pushed back. This will lead to a delay for those who, in many cases, have been waiting for months or years for procedures, many in pain and whose lives are in suspense.
“There is now also the prospect of industrial action. Nurses at Beaumont Hospital, where elective surgery has been cancelled this week, are to serve notice of industrial action today. If this is to occur it will be due to nursing staff being forced into this course.
“This is not about personal gain. It is because nurses working on the frontline know the dangers that low staff numbers cause. They know that people cannot be appropriately treated with reduced levels of staff, with thousands of beds closed and with increasing population and patient demands.
“The Minister for Health must act urgently or this developing crisis will negatively affect the ability of our Health Service to provide appropriate care, even in less challenging times” concluded Deputy Ó Caoláin.