656 patients waiting on trolleys, chairs or in corridors for hospital bed

More than 650 people have been recorded lying on trolleys, chairs or in corridors of hospitals waiting for a bed in a ward.

According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), the daily headcount has soared past record levels hit this time last year and it is only the fourth time the numbers on the trolley watch exceeded the 600 mark.

It recorded 656 people waiting for a bed in the country's hospitals.

The worst hospitals are St Luke's Hospital, Kilkenny, with 57 patients waiting; University Hospital Limerick with 55; South Tipperary General Hospital with 45; and Cork University Hospital with 38.

The INMO said its headcount found 460 people waiting on trolleys and 196 in wards waiting for beds.

January typically sees the highest numbers on the trolley watch as the flu virus peaks and leads to increased demand for in-patient services on the already under pressure hospital system.

Billy Kelleher, Fianna Fail health spokesman, said the numbers on trolleys are a damning indictment of the Government.

"The figures released today are truly extraordinary and paint a very vivid picture of just how dire the overcrowding crisis in our hospitals has become," he said.

Mr Kelleher claimed the winter initiative by Health Minister Simon Harris and the Health Service Executive was failing miserably.

"The Government's mismanagement of this issue is now being blatantly exposed. Every January we see a significant spike in trolley figures, but today's stats are record breaking," he said.

Nursing Homes Ireland said it estimates more than 1,400 beds are available to help with hospital discharges.

Tadhg Daly, the organisation's chief executive, said the Health Minister should ensure HSE management engages with nursing homes to reduce pressure on hospitals.

"It is essential the capacity of nursing homes within the community is fully realised to facilitate timely discharges from our acute hospitals," he said.

Dr Tom Ryan, president of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association, said the reason overcrowding keeps affecting the hospital system is because 1,400 beds were closed in the past decade.

"The shortage of beds, equipment and staff means that hospitals do not have the capacity to provide the care that the population needs and deserves," he said.

"The lack of capital investment in our acute hospitals has resulted in a year-round crisis for hospitals which are struggling without the means to provide a proper standard of care to their patients."

The HSE said that its staff counted 457 people on trolleys during the morning but that figure does not include the number of people who were transferred into corridors of wards as they waited for a proper bed.

Management said its numbers came down to 344 as the day progressed.



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