An elderly woman died “on a trolly” while she waited to be admitted into an Emergency Department in a Belfast Hospital over the weekend.
The BBC reports that the woman was brought to the Royal Victoria Hospital by ambulance on Friday evening, where attempts were made to resuscitate her.
Sending condolences to the woman’s family, the Trust said: “Belfast Trust would like to send our condolences to this patient’s family, our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.
“We have reviewed this patient’s care and spoken to their family. Out of respect for the patient’s family, we will not make any further comment”.
On Monday evening, the South Eastern Health Trust confirmed that 164 patients were in the emergency department (ED) at the Ulster Hospital near Belfast, with 53 waiting to be admitted.
The Belfast Trust said it was experiencing “ongoing and relentless pressure” in a statement released over the weekend, while Antrim Area Emergency Department was also forced to shut on Saturday after it reached full capacity owing to the number of patients needing to be admitted.
The Northern Health and Social Care Trust said in a statement that the decision to close the ED was “regrettable” but it was the only safe action to take given the circumstances.
Meanwhile, on Monday night, the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust reached out for more nursing staff, issuing an “urgent staff appeal” for nurses to work in critical areas. In a statement on social media, they said:
“We are appealing for nursing staff (registered nurses and health care assistants) to help across critical areas tonight.
“If staff can assist in any way, please call via the Trust switchboard on 028 9048 4511 and ask for patient flow.
“Thank you once again for your continued support.”
❗ URGENT STAFF APPEAL ❗ (1/2)
We are appealing for nursing staff (registered nurses and health care assistants) to help across critical areas tonight.
If staff can assist in any way, please call via the Trust switchboard on 028 9048 4511 and ask for patient flow. pic.twitter.com/n56f5ct5eD
— South Eastern Trust (@setrust) November 14, 2022
Following the sad news, the NI Department of Health expressed deep concern as hospitals across the province face mounting pressure as we head further into the winter months, asking for the public’s support to try and improve the situation across multiple trusts.
A spokesperson for said: “The Department of Health remains deeply concerned about the situation in our hospitals and across the health and social care system.
“The regional planning for winter pressures has been spelt out publicly and in detail. It has always been clear that these plans will only mitigate the problems, rather than resolve them.
“The fundamental reality is that we have a serious mismatch between demand for care and the capacity of the system to provide it”.
They said that neighbouring jurisdictions are “facing similar challenges”, continuing:
“Neighbouring jurisdictions are facing similar challenges. We need everyone across society to support our health service in every way they can.
“Hospitals do not have unlimited capacity and it is imperative that when patients have been deemed medically fit they leave the hospital setting.
“Every delayed discharge means a bed is being withheld from a very sick person waiting in an emergency department or in an ambulance outside a hospital, and further impacts on the system’s ability to respond to need in the community.
Reports from just over two weeks ago made it clear that overcrowding is also a problem in Southern Ireland. The Times detailed how the number of patients on trolleys in the 20 most overcrowded hospitals in Ireland increased by 26 per cent in October compared with the same period in 2021, making it clear winter pressures are also affecting the HSE.
Data collated by the Irish Patients’ Association (IPA) on the last weekend of October via the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s (INMO) trolley watch, found a total of 9,491 patients were left without a bed in a number of Irish hospitals between October 1 and last Friday, compared with 7,534 during the same period last year.
The data found that the highest level of overcrowding was at Cork University Hospital where 1,272 patients were without a bed. University Hospital Limerick was next, with 1,215 patients without a bed, followed by University Hospital Galway, where 709 patients did not have a bed. A further 677 were recorded at Sligo University Hospital and 668 at St James’s Hospital.
St James’s Hospital recorded the biggest increase, where the number on trolleys rose from 214 to 668 — a threefold increase. This was followed by Tallaght University Hospital where the number of patients on trolleys rose from 211 to 549 — a 159 per cent rise.
As October drew to a close, the INMO recorded 669 people, including 28 children on trolleys in hospitals across Ireland — the biggest number to date both this year and last year.