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More than 100 children without a hospital bed since September — 2,421 so far this year 

The conditions which Irish patients are being treated in, and in which nurses and midwives here are working in, are getting worse with each passing day, Ireland’s largest professional union for nurses and midwives has said.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), releasing their latest trolley statistics today, said that over 100 children have been without a bed in Irish hospitals since the beginning of September.

The INMO confirmed to Gript that the total number of children without a hospital bed from January to September stands at 2,421.

The statistics, released today, on World Patient Safety Day, showed that over 5,210 patients were without a bed during the first two weeks of September.

The INMO called on the HSE to come to  this week’s Emergency Department Taskforce meeting to find “renewed and workable solutions” to lowering overcrowding, which it said would have a positive impact on patient safety.  

INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha said that staff were facing the prospect of another winter tackling difficult conditions.

“World Patient Safety Day allows us to reflect on the conditions our patients are being treated in. Irish nurses and midwives provide exemplary care but the conditions in which they are expected to carry out their practise are getting worse with each passing day with the number of patients on trolleys in wards right across hospitals increases.

Nurses and midwives are facing into yet another winter where they are left in impossible and often dangerous care environments. We know that overcrowding of this nature has significant impacts on the long-term health outcomes of any patient that spends more than six hours on a trolley,” Ms Ní Sheaghdha said.

She said that at this afternoon’s meeting of the Emergency Department Taskforce, the HSE and individual hospital groups “must bring something new to the table” to make sure patient safety in Irish hospitals is improved.

She said that the union’s members have been reporting “significant” overcrowding coupled with unmet recruitment, while retention targets are “making it impossible” to ensure safe care is given to those who need it most.

 “Year-on-year we are having the same conversations about the very real impact hospital overcrowding is having on patient safety. Senior decision-makers must prioritise the de-escalation of overcrowded areas and remove these very real barriers to providing safe care to patients in our hospitals,” Ms Ní Sheaghdha added.

Speaking on RTE Radio One this morning, the IMNO general secretary said that new solutions were needed to tackle the problem of hospital overcrowding.

She said were a total 87,321 patients in Ireland, from January this year until this month, who needed a hospital bed and did not have one, a number described by Ms Ní Sheaghdha as “extraordinary.”

“August and September [were] very, very busy,” she said. 

“It’s extraordinarily high, and we know that the research tells us that when you’re on a trolley for over six hours, that fact alone affects your outcome. It means that you’re not going to do as well, and resarch tells us that, unfortunately, some people die as a result,” Ms Ní Sheaghdha

“These are statistics, but behind each one of them is a person, who is having a really, bad experience,” she added.

Last week, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said there had been a steady reduction in those without hospital beds between March and July. Speaking on RTE Radio, he attributed this to more weekend working, and a higher number of staff in emergency departments in hospitals and in community care settings.

However, Ms Ní Sheaghdha said she did not agree with his observations. While some areas have witnessed a decline in numbers awaiting beds, adding that figures for August 2023 were higher this year than in 2022.

“We certainly have seen improvements in some hospitals, but not in all. And certainly we know that our figures in August this year were higher than our figures in August last year, which always indicates that the winter is going to be difficult. So, no, we don’t agree,” she said.

“We know that there have been additional efforts in some locations, for example, Waterford. And HIQA recently issued a report which clearly indicates that what they’re doing in Waterford is working.

“We know that, for example, they concentrate entirely on ensuring patients are not on trolleys, and wherever the trolley is, it doesn’t matter. It must be the aim of the hospital to get people into a hospital bed which is fully staffed, and where care can be delivered safely.


Ms Ní Sheaghdha said that HSE figures contribute to the problems around hospital overcrowding, saying that HSE statistics do not show “the full picture” because of what is recorded.

“The problem we have at the moment is that there is a debate around the HSE’s figures, and our figures. We count trolleys wherever they are, and our figures are always higher. The HSE only counts trolleys that are in the emergency department. We know that it’s absolutely not telling the full picture,” she claimed.

Ms Ní Sheaghdha said the union would be raising “the fact that we have to be truthful, and we have to tell the full picture.”

“If I’m on a trolley on a corridor on a ward, it’s going to have exactly the same effect as being on a trolley on a corridor in a different part of the hospital. Being on the trolley is the issue,” she added.

She said waiting numbers are so high at present because Irish hospitals do not have capacity to cater for both emergencies and elective treatments. Ms Ní Sheaghdha said this approach must be prioritised, adding that she wanted the HSE to start talking to private hospitals to ensure those on waiting lists for surgery are not told they cannot have surgery because of an overcrowded hospital.

“You need the capacity, and with waiting lists of just under half a million, it’s unlikely that everybody is going to get their surgeries on time. In fact, we know they won’t, and particularly when our hospitals are working at a capacity of over 100 per cent.

“Think about the pressure that puts on staff – the people we represent, nurses and midwives – they work very hard, they never get reprieve.”

The general secretary of the INMO said that levels of burnout among staff “are getting increasingly high”,l leading people to leave their jobs. 

“We don’t want to be in that situation. We want to hold onto every single nurse and midwife who is working in our hospitals today, and in fact we want to grow that number,” she told the programme.

“We can’t have a situation where the workplace in which they’re working is causing them to become ill themselves, or to decide to leave their jobs.”

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