A leading spokesperson for the Irish Nurses and Midwives organisation (INMO) in Donegal has said that with the combination of bed closures and the ever increasing numbers of patients on trolleys that a major health crisis is practically inevitable unless corrective measures can be taken.
Speaking to the Donegal Democrat, Maura Hickey said that last year has been the worst year for people on trolleys since the organisation started taking records
The figures show that nationally over 86,000 were left waiting on a trolley which represented an increase of 14% over the previous year with the level of overcrowding, in hospitals outside of Dublin, increased significantly, year on year, by 33%.
The recent figures released by the INMO show that numbers on trolley’s in the two major hospitals in the North West vary with Letterkenny General hospital showing a decrease from 3,059 in 2006 to 592 in 2011.
Sligo General Hospital has however shown a significant increase from 784 in 2006 to 1505 last year.
Hickey pointed out that while these figures are very worrying the fact that so many beds throughout the area have been closed clearly indicates that when the HSE plan for 2012 starts taking effect there will be serious implications for frontline services and, by extension, the overcrowding that occurs in hospital emergency departments.
She added, “People still get sick and with the increasing population there is also a greater demand on our medical services yet these are being depleted almost on a daily basis.
“The most vulnerable in our society are the victims with over 80 beds for the elderly already closed in Donegal alone - this has impacted on the Rock and the Shiel Hospitals, Lifford and a combination of Community Hospitals throughout the county.
“The Minister Dr. James Reilly has already stated that up on 550 elderly beds will be taken out of the system in the coming year - there is no doubt that this will have serious implications for Donegal and I fear that we could see a hospital closure.
“On the General Hospital front there has been 70 beds closed in Sligo General and the private Hospital St. Joseph’s in Garden Hill is now operating a day care service only. A further 35 beds have been closed in St. John’s Hospital also in Sligo. This is a serious reduction of bed capacity for residents in South Donegal.
“Letterkenny General has seen 8 beds closed but has lost up on 30 nurses with more front line staff expected to take retirement in February.”
Peter Doran of the INMO added, “This is the 4th consecutive year of a real, and substantial, reduction in funding, for our public health service. It is a situation which cannot continue as, regardless of improved efficiencies and new forms of service delivery, both the quality and quantity, of health services will be negatively impacted.
“The INMO, in the context of the trolley watch figures we are publishing today, reaffirms its call upon the Minister and the Government to think again about giving greater protection to the public health service.
“Every person using our public health service is particularly vulnerable and, regardless of funding difficulties, the system cannot compromise with regard to the provision of safe care through safe practice which fully meets their needs.”