The government has been accused of manipulating trolley figures at Letterkenny University Hospital.
Overcrowding at the hospital has hit new heights this autumn. Figures released by the Irish Midwives and Nurses Organisations (INMO) last week showed the hospital had the third-highest level of overcrowding in the State for November.
The figures showed that 581 people waited for beds at the hospital last month, a record for November.
Now Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Deputy Pearse Doherty has accused the government of downplaying the crisis at the hospital and of manipulation of trolley figures.
The Donegal TD was reacting to a statement from the Minister for Health in reply to a Dáil Question in which he was asked to give the government’s views on overcrowding at Letterkenny University Hospital (LUH).
In his response Minister Simon Harris said he acknowledged the distress overcrowded EDs cause to patients, their families, and frontline staff working in very challenging working conditions in hospitals throughout the country.
“This year has been characterised by high demand for unscheduled care, particularly among the over-75 age group, which was further exacerbated by Storm Emma and the extended influenza season earlier this year.”
The minister said that as of the end of October last, the number of patients on trolleys at the hospital's Emergency Department was 2,570, an increase of over 28 per cent from the previous year.
Lack of bed capacity
Deputy Doherty said the numbers quoted by the minister are grossly understated and has pointed to the overcrowding data compiled by the INMO which has recorded the number of patients who’ve had to wait on trolleys at both the hospital’s Emergency Department and Inpatient Wards between January and October to have reached 4,251.
“Last week in the Dáil, I again raised the deplorable issue of overcrowding with the minister for health and asked him to give his views on the unacceptable high number of patients who have been forced to wait on trolleys due to lack of bed capacity at LUH throughout 2018.
Trolley Watch Campaign
“In his reply, the minister began by firstly stating the obvious when he acknowledged that 2018 had been a challenging year for the hospital and its frontline staff with demand for unscheduled care, particularly among the over 75 age group due to the prolonged flu season, having been very high.
“However, he went on to claim that by the end of October 2018, Emergency Department attendances at LUH were up by 4.6 per cent compared to the same period last year, before stating that the cumulative count of patients waiting on trolleys at the hospital had been 2,570.
“Yet, when we compare the Minister’s figures to those compiled by the INMO as part of its yearly Trolley Watch Campaign and which gives a more whole picture of hospital overcrowding, we see that the number of patients recorded as having spent time of trolleys and chairs between January and October to have actually been 4,251 – that’s a difference of 1,681 patients or, in percentage terms, a difference of 50 per cent.
“The Minister is clearly trying to manipulate the figures and he and his government are doing their best to downplay what has become a perpetual and ever worsening crisis at the hospital.
“And, despite his efforts to massage these deplorable and absolutely shocking figures, no amount of spin can hide the fact that overcrowding at the hospital has brought the service to a breaking point.
“And yet while overcrowding continues to inflict misery on patients and staff at LUH, the Government continues to drip feed information about what measures it is putting in place to address this crisis.”