Emergency Department Taskforce to discuss record hospital overcrowding

483 patients are waiting on trolleys around the country this morning

Updated 13:50 ...

The Emergency Department Taskforce will meet on Monday to discuss this week's record levels of hospital overcrowding.

It’s one of the measures announced after a meeting between the HSE and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

Hospital managers have also been directed to meet with INMO representatives locally.

483 patients are waiting on trolleys this morning, according to the latest figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

That is down from a high of 677 on Wednesday.

The HSE figures, which don’t count patients on trolleys in wards, show 349 patients - including two children - are waiting for a bed.

Those figures mark a 14% rise on this day, last year.

Following this morning's meeting, INMO  General Secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha said the talks were productive:

"We had sought that the group CEOs would be advised that they have to meet with the INMO at local level in order to ensure that every possible avenue is being pursued to maximise efficiencies," she said.

"Confirmation has been given to us that that letter has issued from national HSE to the group CEOs to meet with the INMO next week.

"That is welcome."

Meanwhile the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has warned that the hospital system is "in meltdown" and warned that the crisis must be treated as a whole government issue if there is to be any relief for patients and hospital staff.

The organisation has warned that the Taoiseach and the Finance minister must commit the necessary funding to bring the crisis to an end.

Yesterday, the Health Minister Simon Harris insisted he is committed to opening more beds and reforming the system, however IMO president Dr Ann Hogan has warned that the situation will not change without real investment.

"Every year for the last several years we have had Winter Plans, [we have been told] 'it is going to be better this year, we are going to do all this to make the difference' but actually it has not made the difference and things are only getting worse," she said.

"I mean it is a whole-Government issue; It is how much funding we are prepared to put into our health system and really, it is a question of how important do we think it is."

The IMO is calling for more beds, more investment in GP services and better pay and conditions medical staff.

Dr Hogan has warned that poor pay and conditions are driving many young doctors to other jurisdictions:

"Nowadays doctors are going younger and they don't want to come back because they are going to systems where - it is not always a case of better pay - but the working conditions are better and they feel more valued," she said.

"We need to reverse that trend."

Meanwhile, proposed changes to how emergencies are handled by hospitals could see trauma care centralised.

Although the solution would mean patients have to travel further to a major trauma centre, Professor Anthony Staines from DCU told Newstalk told The Pat Kenny Show that not every hospital should be doing everything:

"We need to put the resources into hospitals to back up their specific mission," he said.

"So it means hospitals do a more differentiated set of things - which is what we did with Cancer.

"We are now trying to pull major trauma together I think into two major trauma centres and that will improve things for everyone.

"It does mean if you have a major trauma far away from one of those centres, you have to travel further - but it also means you will get looked after properly."

Every January, the number of patients on trolleys spike, and medical professionals meet to discuss possible solutions.

At this morning's meeting, the INMO will note that that hospitals that manage patient flow well have reported fewer patients on trolleys.

Professor Staines said it is essential to get patients in and out of hospital as smoothly as possible.

"There are a lot of people who are sitting in hospitals who could be outside hospitals and there is a lot of people falling ill and ending up in ED who don't need to fall ill - who could be kept well out in the community.

"Once they are ill, they need to be in the ED.

"There are very few people in the EDs who don't need to be there and there isn't anybody lying on a trolley who doesn't need to be there."

Further updates from the nurses meeting with the HSE are expected this afternoon.

Reporting from Juliette Gash ...