It was declared a “national emergency” when 495 were recorded on hospital trollies in 2006. But yesterday marked the 43rd time this year that tally has been topped, leading to calls for the Government to admit the crisis is out of control.
Doctors, nurses, and opposition parties have insisted Health Minister Simon Harris face reality.
Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation figures published in today’s Irish Examiner show since Ms Harney’s “national emergency” label 12 years ago, there has been a consistent upward surge in overcrowding.
Ms Harney declared a national crisis on March 28, 2006. However, in the first 73 days of this year alone, that figure has been exceeded 43 times — an unprecedented rate medics and politicians warn has brought the system to its knees.
Between March 5 and yesterday, the figure was broken eight different times, ranging from 585 yesterday to a record 714 on Monday.
In February, the figure was breached a further 16 times, while in January it was broken on 19 occasions.
Asked if the trolley crisis is again a national emergency, Mr Harris on Monday accepted while there is a “need for a real urgent and renewed focus on overcrowding”, he is “not one for labels”.
Speaking in Oklahoma on Monday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it is “not entirely clear” what is going wrong, before referencing the recent snow storms and “very long flu season, but that’s not an excuse”.
However, politicians and medics have said the crisis will only get worse until the Government declares a national emergency and responds accordingly.
“It is a national emergency. It has gone past a national emergency, it is now a national disgrace,” Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said, who said the Government must publish a “short and medium term blueprint” on how to address the issue immediately.
Labour and Sinn Féin agreed, with Labour health spokesman Alan Kelly saying “they need to put in emergency protocols now to deal with this because it is clearly a national emergency”. Sinn Féin health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly saying the Taoiseach and Mr Harris should “apologise” to medics and patients.
IMO vice-president and emergency medicine consultant, Dr Peadar Gilligan, said the crisis is due to the fact there are not enough beds, not enough consultants, and not enough resources for GPs, adding “there is nothing surprising about what is happening”.
The INMO repeated general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha’s warning the Government and the HSE must impose emergency hospital protocols immediately.