There is a “very real likelihood” that patients have died because of the recent delays in the hospital system, the Irish Medical Organisation has warned.
In a statement this afternoon, the organisation said the delays were avoidable – and the emergency since the New Year is just “the latest iteration of the permanent crisis in our health services”.
It said it’s likely that patients have died and there is an “even stronger likelihood” that more people will die in the coming weeks because they are afraid to present at Emergency Departments.
There are 534 people on a trolley in hospitals across the country today.
It's a slight decrease on last week’s record figures, but hospitals remain under severe pressure.
IMO chair Dr Mathew Sadlier said the crisis is the result of years of underinvestment in the health service – and warned that it has become “dangerous for patients and for those who work within it”.
He said the crisis will continue until there is a radical increase in public hospital beds, staff and infrastructure.
Dr Sadlier said there is also evidence that the GPs and consultants of the future will flee the Irish health service and move abroad after witnessing the “war-zone-like conditions of the past few weeks”.
“It is critical that people understand that the current emergency is not simply a temporary winter crisis or a result of a ‘perfect storm’ of COVID, flu and respiratory illnesses,” he said.
“The real issue is that successive governments have accepted as “good enough” a health service which was - and is - demonstrably unfit-for-purpose.
“[A health service] where almost a million patients are stuck on waiting lists [and] where vacancies exist for almost 1,000 consultant posts (which fail even to attract applicants)
“Where chaotic scenes in Emergency Departments and hundreds of patients on trolleys are now routine and where staff face unprecedented levels of burnout, stress and low morale as they once again listen to politicians making excuses for our woefully inadequate health services.”
INMO Trolley Count shows 534 people on trolleys across the country this morning.
Cork Univesrity Hospital - 52
St Vincent’s Hospital - 37
Mater Hospital - 31
Meanwhile the INMO are calling for stronger public health advice around mandated mask-wearing amid a surge in RSV pic.twitter.com/FpO8DyX7XE
— Barry Whyte (@BarryWhyte85) January 10, 2023
Dr Sadlier warned that the health service is already forcing staff to work illegal and unsafe hours – noting that they often work 80 hours or more a week.
“The sad reality is that without radical action, the only certainty is that the chaos of January 2023 will recur and perhaps sooner than anyone would expect,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has threatened strike action if the HSE can’t guarantee the safety of its members.
The organisation has confirmed that it will consult its members this week about the possibility of industrial action.
INMO General Secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha told Newstalk that staff have been let down by the HSE.
“What we are talking about right now is very unsafe working conditions for nurses, for midwives and for other healthcare workers,” she said.
“We are saying the conditions are unsafe, the employer is not upholding its obligation to keep them safe and there are measures that must be directly introduced in order to give them the assurance that their workplace will be safe – because otherwise they will leave.”
These people at St James’s Hospital in Dublin said they would support the nurses in any dispute.
“The staff are just running around the place and they don’t get a second,” said one man.
“I was by the nurse’s station and when they change over at 8pm the relief – you can hear a few of them crying. But they do their best.”
“I find the staff up here brilliant – they couldn’t be any better,” said another woman. “And yeah, they do get underpaid.
“At all the hospitals, all the doctors and nurses are under serious pressure and they are low on staff and they are doing serious hours.
“So yeah, they do deserve an actual good pay raise – sure only for them, nobody would get better.”
The INMO says it will consult its members this week about the possibility of industrial action.
With reporting from Barry Whyte.