03 Oct 2022

Trolley problem seems to be getting worse - how bad will it be this winter?


File picture: Trolley crisis has continued right through summer

It has been a challenging summer for patients and staff at St Luke’s Hospital.

That there are more than 20 people waiting on a bed at St Luke’s on a given day — at any time of year — should not be acceptable and common. The figure provided by the INMO yesterday (Tuesday) was 27. That’s 20 people waiting in the emergency department, and seven on wards elsewhere.

Staff and management can only do their best; this is a failure of Government and HSE — and it’s not fair on patients, nor on the people who work in this overcrowded setting day to day.

At the peak of winter and flu seasons, with Covid rampant around the county, high figures were endured and somewhat understood. However, throughout the summer, and now at its end, the local hospital is still under huge pressure.

And if this is the scenario mid-August, what will the picture look like in November, December and January — traditionally the worst, busiest months?

New records for overcrowding are being set this summer. Consistently the INMO reports offer grim reading, with several ‘worst-ever’ months in 2022.

This June saw 478 patients waiting on a bed at St Luke’s. Go back ten years, to 2012, the Kilkenny hospital’s figure for the month was 33.

Those who have spent time on a trolley, or with a loved one on a trolley, know that it is extremely distressing. No doubt, the doctors and nurses, and other hospital staff find it so. How has it become so bad?

Covid has played a part but in truth the problem goes far deeper.

It’s clear that some kind of radical intervention is needed to address the crisis. The responsibility lies with the Government and the HSE. The overcrowding situation is no longer endurable; meaningful action is needed right now.

With a growing (and ageing) population in Carlow and Kilkenny,it seems inevitable that matters are only going to worsen unless something is done.

The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly visited Kilkenny back in April to open part of the new ward block. It’s clear the additional capacity has done little to mitigate the high trolley figures —a few beds is simply a drop in the ocean.

It’s not yet known if Minister Donnelly will still be in the Health role after any potential reshuffle, but whoever has the portfoilo needs to make tackling this issue a top priority, working with the new HSE chief.

They also need to listen to what the nurses and doctors are constantly saying. Urgent mitigation measures are needed — the situation is not safe.

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