The HSE and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly must be brought before the Health Committee immediately, Meath West TD and Chairperson of the Save Navan Hospital Campaign, Peadar Tóibín has said.
His comments come as the crisis in Irish hospitals escalate, with heightened chaos in the health service giving way to lengthening waiting times. Mr Tóibín announced today that he has written to the Chairperson of the Oireachtas Health Committee calling on the Committee to bring the leadership of the HSE and the Minister for Health before the Committee immediately to discuss the worsening A&E crisis.
The Aontu politician said he has had contact with multiple people over the Christmas period who, although very sick, have been reluctant and afraid to visit their local hospital for treatment.
“I have been speaking to many people over the Christmas period who have been very sick. Many have told me that they are afraid to go near a hospital for treatment. Many feel that a visit to a hospital would be a threat to their health rather than a help”, he said.
“Hospital A&Es are jammed packed,” he continued. “Staff are under unprecedented pressure and there has been a significant increase in adverse incidents”.
The calls for the Health Committee to urgenyly intervene come after a ‘major internal incident’ was declared at Limerick University Hospital last night due to “record high attendances” at the hospital’s emergency department.
The UL Hospital group said that an “unprecedented” number of people presenting at the ED was driven by a surge in respiratory infections, including flu, Covid, and RSV. While extra staff were asked to present to UHL for work, other staff have been redeployed to the hospital’s emergency department to care for the influx of patients.
All out-patient appointments at the hospital, due to take place today, Tuesday 3 January, were cancelled, while only urgent elective surgeries will take place at the hospital over the coming days.
Mr Toibin said last night’s major incident declared at Limerick University Hospital is an example that adverse incidents are increasing, leaving staff under immense pressure.
“In our own region before Christmas the paediatric A&E was so full that parents were told to wait with their sick children in a car in the car park. In some cases children had to sleep in their car in the sub zero temperatures,” he said.
He went on to mention the situation at Drogheda A&E shortly before Christmas, saying the hospital’s emergency department had become a “long term car park” for 11 ambulances because there wasn’t a single bed, trolley, or a chair left in A&E.
“Because these ambulances were tied up, there were no ambulances available in the Cavan, Monaghan Meath area for hours,” he added.
The TD said that figures which show well over 100,000 people waited on trollies in Irish hospitals last year convey the severity of the situation, which is “leading to death and adverse incidents”.
He went on: “In 2021 a PQ answer to be indicated that there were 105,000 adverse incidents in the health care system, a significant jump from in the last number of years. These are people who have been damaged, made ill, and in some cases been disabled or lost their lives as a result of mistakes in the Health system, many of these no doubt due to the pressure put on staff”.
“All of this has happened while the HSE leadership have actively closed A&E capacity around the country. In a 15-year period 8 A&Es were closed in this state and the HSE are still looking to close A&Es such as Navan A&E”.
Reiterating his call for the HSE and the Minister for Health to answer before the Oireachtas Committee, he said:
“This has to be fixed. Political representatives can’t just put their hands in the air and surrender to a worsening A&E system. There has to be accountability for these decisions and these outcomes. That’s why it’s key that the HSE and the Minister for Health are brought before the Oireachtas Committee immediately”.