Health Minister under fire over "unhelpful" hospital trolley figures tweet

Simon Harris tweeted a snap trolley figure on Friday evening - the time of the week when figures tend to be at their lowest

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Empty hospital beds in a corridor | Image: RollingNews.ie

The Minister for Health has been accused of choosing a misleading time to tweet about hospital overcrowding figures.

On Friday evening, Health Minister Simon Harris tweeted that the “trolley figure provided to me at 8pm this evening is 104.”

Earlier in the week, the figures for Tuesday showed a record 612 people on trolleys in emergency wards throughout the country.

Speaking to Jonathan Healy on The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Dr James Gray, Emergency Medical Consultant at Tallaght Hospital in Dublin said it was “not very helpful” for the Health Minister to tweet out figures on a Friday evening.

“If you are going to tweet a snap poll on trolleys, Friday evening is probably the best time to do it,” he said.

“It is not very helpful because he knew damn well that at 8am Friday there was 395 patients on trolleys - an extremely high number of patients on trolleys for a Friday.”

Dr Gray said overcrowding is a “year-long crisis” - with over 460 patients on trolleys this morning.

He said 345 of those patients are “languishing and being warehoused in the emergency departments” while the rest are on trolleys in overcrowded wards.

He warned that the Irish health service “has been broken for a long time and it is getting worse, it is not getting better.”

“We had 93,600 patients on trolleys in 2016 - a staggering statistic; a record since records began 11 years ago,” he said.

In 2006 the then Health Minister Mary Harney declared it was a “national emergency” that 495 people were waiting on trolleys to be treated.

Dr Gray said 50,000 patients were on trolleys that year - compared to the 93,600 in 2016 - however the government has refused to discuss the current situation in the same terms.

“We are having a crisis that is year round now and that is the frustrating thing about it,” he said.

"Throughout the year, every month, we are having hundreds of patients on trolleys every day.

"To have somebody who is 94-years-of-age who has given their life to Ireland; almost 100 years of age, allowed to languish and be warehoused in that sort of environment; it beggars belief that as a society we allow this to happen.