Pressure on hospitals expected to increase as HSE warns of rise in flu…

Last year was the worst on record for hospital overcrowding

Pressure on hospitals expected to increase as HSE warns of rise in flu

File photo | Image: Martin Keene PA Archive/PA Images

The HSE is warning that pressure on hospital emergency departments is likely to increase in the coming weeks amid signs that flu levels are rising.

The number of patients waiting on trolleys and in wards around the country is significantly down on this time last year, despite predictions that this winter could bring record overcrowding.

There were 366 patients waiting for a bed this morning according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) – compared to 656 this day last year.

According to HSE figures – which do not include patients in wards – there were 236 patients awaiting admission this morning, compared to 514 this day last year.

The low level of flu is being credited with the reduced levels of overcrowding alongside the generally mild weather.

“We are now seeing signs that flu levels are rising and expect this will impact on the number of ED attendances and admissions over the coming weeks,” the HSE said in a statement.

Winter Plan

The Irish Patients Association this afternoon welcomed the reduction – noting that the HSE Winter Plan appears to be having an effect.

It said the real test for Ireland’s hospitals will come in the next couple of weeks as “flu, weather, staff shortages, bed closures and deferred elective surgeries” test the system.

IPA spokesperson Stephen McMahon said the mild Christmas was helpful – but that could change very quickly.

“Really we have to be prepared now for the fact that flu will increase, we also have bad weather on the horizon; there are still staff shortages, bed closures and also people who have had elective surgeries cancelled may get sicker and have to go into the ED department.

“So this is all going to really test the system now over the coming weeks.”

Overcrowding

It comes as the INMO warned that last year was the worst year on record for overcrowding – with over 108,000 patients recorded as waiting for a bed.

It marks a 9% increase on 2017 and is nearly double the figure recorded in 2006 when the INMO began its count. The INMO has blamed low capacity and understaffing for the high levels of overcrowding.

The organisation’s members have already voted in favour of industrial action over staff shortages and pay, with the executive to meet next week to decide on strike dates.