Hospital patients in Ireland will “regrettably experience long wait times in our emergency departments” during the coming winter period.
That’s according to the HSE on Tuesday morning, as the health service added that patients in urgent need of medical assistance would be “prioritised for treatment and care.”
“As expected, Emergency Departments are becoming extremely busy due to the unprecedented combination of very high levels of flu, Covid-19 and other respiratory illnesses in the community,” said HSE chief operations officer Damien McCallion, speaking on the situation this week.
“Those who believe they may be seriously ill and require emergency care should of course come to hospital, but we would urge others to consider seeking support from pharmacists, GPs, GP Out of Hours Services and Minor Injury Units.
“These services have emergency responses in place for patients presenting with respiratory and other urgent health issues.”
The HSE claims that although it anticipated an increase in respiratory illnesses such as RSV, flu and Covid-19 during winter, as happens every year, this surge came earlier than expected.
“While this surge of winter virus infections was predicted and planned for, the trends being seen are following the more pessimistic of predicted models, and also appear to be increasing earlier than had been hoped,” the health service said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, we expect this incline to remain sharply upwards for a number of weeks to come and to continue to seriously impact our hospitals and Emergency Departments.”
In particular, University Hospital Limerick has declared a “major internal incident” due to the number of people seeking emergency treatment, with one doctor at UHL describing the hospital as a “national basketcase.”
'Inhumane' and 'dangerous' conditions in UHL as consultant warns of dire situation https://t.co/VVuq8LZmAj
— Irish Examiner (@irishexaminer) January 3, 2023
Reportedly, patients are on trolleys which are being “crammed together,” in a crisis of “chronic and persistent overcrowding in the emergency department,” which has been ongoing since at least 2009.
According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, a record 931 admitted patients are currently waiting for a hospital bed nationally – 171 cases higher than the previous overcrowding record of 760 cases in mid December.
Of the 931 patients on trolleys, 767 of these are in emergency departments.