The number of people waiting on trolleys in Irish hospitals reached the second-highest level ever recorded this month, with 11,452 patients without a bed in October.
The figures released by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) today show that this month was the worst October on record for overcrowding, and the second-worst month since records began.
Only January 2018 fared worse, when 12,395 patients were on trolleys nationwide that month.
The INMO warned that the overcrowding, paired with understaffing, was causing a “grave risk” to patients.
The nurses and midwives’ union said that University Hospital Limerick experienced the worst overcrowding in October, with 1,450 patients waiting on trolleys.
This was followed by Cork University Hospital (1,028), University Hospital Galway (885), South Tipperary General Hospital (753) and Letterkenny University Hospital (693).
University Hospital Limerick also has the highest trolley numbers today with 59 people without a bed.
(Thread) There were not enough beds for 11,452 patients in Irish hospitals this October, making this the worst October on record for overcrowding, and the second highest month recorded since Trolley Watch began.>>
— Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation (@INMO_IRL) October 31, 2019
The INMO analysed HSE workforce figures since the start of the year and observed that the reduction in nurses and midwives nationwide has resulted in “chronic understaffing”.
It found that there are 308 fewer staff nurses, 37 fewer Public Health Nurses and a decrease of 87 staff midwives, with the final figure representing a 6% drop in the staff midwife workforce over nine months.
The union says that understaffing is linked with higher patient deaths and longer stays in hospital.
It cited a study by UCC and the Department of Health found that these problems, as well as the extent of burnout among staff, could be reduced by appropriate nurse staffing levels.
INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said: “The message from the frontline is clear: patients are being put at grave risk.
“There is no doubt that this situation will worsen as winter bites, unless staffing becomes a top priority for the government.
“Patients are paying the price for the HSE’s ‘go slow’ recruitment freeze, which leaves many posts unfilled.”
She said she had written to the HSE “to warn that their recruitment pause is putting lives at risk”, and that “an already bureaucratic recruitment process” means that we are “slamming the door on those who want to work in our public health system”.