Patients waiting at least 24 hours for a bed in 17 hospitals around the country

Patients were waiting at least 24 hours for a bed in 17 hospitals yesterday, as the winter surge in emergency care continued to take its toll.

he HSE’s own 8am trolley count of patients in emergency departments – excluding those on trolleys in wards – showed 70 patients across the country had spent 24 hours or more waiting for a bed.

The highest number facing this delay was in St Vincent’s hospital in Dublin, with 12 patients enduring the grueling wait, followed by nine in Cork University Hospital, eight in the Mater Hospital and Letterkenny Hospital, and seven in St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny.

Elsewhere, five patients were on trolleys for more than 24 hours in Naas General Hospital and in Sligo, with three in the Mercy Hospital in Cork and Tallaght Hospital.

There were lower numbers in Mullingar, Wexford, Mayo, Kerry, Tipperary and Limerick, but the spread of hospitals affected by the most severe delays signaled the ongoing struggle posed by overcrowding in most parts of the country.

There were 385 patients on trolleys in emergency departments, according to the HSE count, while the tally by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organization (INMO) stood at 528, including those on wards, compared to 534 on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, new figures to be released today on the flu will show a record 3,056 cases last week, although some of these may have been carried over from the disrupted reporting period of Christmas and the New Year.

The spread of the virus, which is continuing to lead to hospitalizations, remains a serious threat, along with high levels of Covid-19 and other respiratory illnesses.

The struggle to contain trolley numbers is continuing to affect the care of patients on hospital waiting lists, most of whose operations are being put on hold. In the University Hospital Limerick Group, day surgeries in Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s Hospital in Limerick city have been canceled and this is repeated in hospitals across the country as the focus remains on keeping a lid on overcrowding until the end of this month.

As fears grow that more people in need of emergency care are staying at home, frightened at the prospect of ending up on a chair or trolley, the Irish Cancer Society yesterday appealed to those who are feeling unwell not to delay getting medical care.

Rachel Morrogh, its director of advocacy, said: “We are concerned that people with cancer symptoms are putting off seeking medical care.

“People in treatment may also be worried about contacting or attending hospitals if they are feeling unwell, due to fears of being admitted through emergency departments. We are very concerned about the chilling effect this is having on them calling their cancer teams.

“Cancer detection is time-critical: any delays to a cancer diagnosis being picked up can negatively impact the chances of a good outcome for patients. We already know that around one in 10 cancer cases expected to be picked up in 2020 were not due to the effects of the pandemic, which has continued to be a factor in the last two years.

“We don’t want the current crisis to jeopardise progress made since the start of the pandemic in encouraging people to seek medical help when they need it. Government needs to do much more to ensure that timely and appropriate care is available to everyone who needs it.

“We would urge anyone experiencing symptoms that are unexplained, unusual or persistent, or who is currently undergoing cancer treatment, to please still seek medical advice. If that isn’t possible, please contact the Irish Cancer Society to speak to a nurse who can give information, support and advice for free on 1800 200 700.”

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