Annual TrolleyWatch figures from 2014 (left) to 2021 (right). St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny is highlighted in yellow. Graph: INMO
Sobering figures published by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation at the beginning of this week show that 2021 has been the worst year on record for overcrowding at St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny.
The winter is almost always the busiest time in our hospitals due to flu surges and other seasonal issues. But it’s worth noting that this December was not the worst or even the second-worst for our local INMO TrolleyWatch figures. No longer can the blame be pinned on an acute, end-of-year spike; the problem is chronic and pervasive. It is a year-round issue, and the situation appears to be deteriorating.
The pandemic has played its part, but staff and management have worked hard to ensure proper procedures are followed and Covid pathways are kept separate to the rest of the hospital to limit the spread of the virus to non-Covid patients. Overcrowding — people left waiting for beds on trolleys and corridors — only makes this more difficult. Perhaps had more been done to alleviate the never-ending bed shortage and staffing crisis, the situation would not be as bleak.
Now we face into a difficult beginning to the new year. With the post-Christmas/New Year surge in cases only beginning to materialise, and problems compounded by staff either out with Covid or as close contacts, things may become even more challenging.
What is troubling is that none of this comes as a shock — indeed, it was expected. We are almost two years into this pandemic, with the pressure that it was expected to place on our health service and hospital capacity long foreseen, and discussed at length.
There are no surprises here. The INMO has warned time and time again that its members, stretched to breaking point, are unable to cope. Will the Government now act in some way, perhaps implement some of the suggested measures —or will we be looking at yet another record figure this time again next year?
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