The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) Trolley Watch Figures, showed that 12,201 people waited on trolleys in Emergency Departments or on additional beds placed throughout hospitals, during the month of January.
This is an 18% increase over the numbers last January, which themselves were a record high and is a 128% increase on the numbers recorded in 2007. The most overcrowded hospital in the Eastern region was St Vincent’s University Hospital with 559 people waiting on trolleys and 1,003 were recorded for the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick, the highest outside of Dublin. Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street, Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin and National Children’s Hospital, Tallaght recorded an additional 192 children, waiting on trolleys, during January.
Phil Ni Sheaghdha, INMO General Secretary said: “This is an incredible level of overcrowding and the appalling conditions experienced in Emergency Departments are now beyond anything we have ever seen. It now amounts to a humanitarian crisis for patients and a risk rich environment for those trying to work in such chaotic conditions”.
In February 2016 the employer agreed with the INMO that when one-third of ED trolleys were occupied by in-patients, this was their indicator to take action to protect the health and safety of staff.
Nurses in Emergency Departments and throughout hospitals are now working in appalling conditions and according to Ms Ni Sheaghdha: “Health employers have completely fallen down on their statutory obligation to provide a safe place of work.” Ms Ni Sheaghdha also pointed out that Section 8 of the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act requires employers to carry out risk assessments and put in place mitigating measures to avoid those risks. Section 11 specifically describes the duties of the employer in relation to emergencies and serious and imminent dangers to their staff.
Ms Ni Sheaghdha said “There was no evidence that any of the employers concerned have carried out risk assessments in any of the hospitals or Emergency Departments experiencing such overcrowding. INMO members cannot be expected to tolerate such appalling and dangerous working environments and, at this point, many members of the public are openly asking the nurses how they could tolerate such a situation. It seems to us that all standards with regard to fire safety, personal protection, infection control and hygiene have gone out the window and no statutory authority or employer is prepared to look in. In those circumstances the INMO will have to take the necessary steps to protect the safety, health and welfare of our members.”
Ms Ni Sheaghdha went on to say: “INMO representatives from all Emergency Departments have been convened for a meeting on Tuesday next to consider the crisis situation and how the organisation can best respond to it. Nurse Representatives from all over the country will participate in the meeting and it is expected that the INMO will face calls for action to defend their members and the public.”