This year has been the worst year so far for overcrowding at St Luke's General Hospital in Kilkenny since INMO data collection began, with record numbers left without a bed in 2017.
A total of 2,456 patients were waiting on trolleys and wards at the local hospital between January and July - an increase of 497 people on the number for the same period last year. It's also a 540% increase on the lowest figure so far - in 2012, when 383 patients were recorded during the first six months.
While the figures for last month show a reduction in overcrowding compared to last year, an unseasonable spike at the end of July and continuing into this month has thrown that off. There are 20 patients on trolleys and wards today (August 10), compared to just three on the same day in 2016.
The problem has been attributed to a number of factors, including a high attendance at the Emergency Department on some occasions, as well as the closure of a whole ward for maintenance and refurbishment to comply with standards for infection prevention and control.
Today, the INMO has warned that the Government, the Department and the HSE must immediately agree the necessary additional funding, with incentives to recruit staff, to expand the health service to meet both scheduled and unscheduled care demands.
“The record levels of patients on trolleys, in the first seven months, is most alarming as we prepare for the autumn/winter period," said INMO General Secretary Liam Doran.
"These figures are further confirmation that our health service continues to be too small and, regardless of the initiatives that have been taken, demand continues to outstrip the capacity of the health service to provide timely, appropriate and dignified care.
"The situation must be the subject of immediate action, by Government, the Department of Health and the HSE, leading to additional funding, which must provide for incentivised staff recruitment, so that additional beds can be opened and properly staffed to meet ever growing demand.
“If our health service is to respond, appropriately, to both the emergency and planned admissions, additional bed capacity, and community nursing services, must be introduced.
"This will only be done when we solve the recruitment/retention crisis facing nursing and midwifery in Ireland. If we do not have additional nurses and midwives then we cannot expand our capacity and overcrowding levels will continue to grow”.