Seanad debates

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

10:30 am

Photo of Rose Conway WalshRose Conway Walsh (Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I want to raise the issue of the hospital trolley crisis again. Up to November 2017, 82,459 people had been left on hospital trolleys. We are in danger of 2017 becoming the first year that the number of people on trolleys tops 100,000. It is important to remember that each one of these figures represents an individual with a family. I commend the approach of the homelessness campaign which protested outside the gates of Leinster House yesterday. The main theme of the #mynameis campaign seeks to change the attitude towards homelessness figures, stressing that behind each figure is a real human being and each one is one too many. We also heard the phrase homelessness is not normal. This should also apply to people languishing on hospital trolleys.

The Irish Association of Emergency Medicine, IAEM, estimates that between 300 and 350 patients die each year on trolleys. It is awful to think that someone, who toiled and went through many things in life, might end their life on a hospital trolley. At the rate we are going, many more people will actually end their time on this earth on a trolley. It is shameful and a disgrace in a country that has wealth like ours. If there was an outbreak of disease, there is no capacity left in the hospital system to deal with it. I do not know what would happen.

Sinn Féin's policy document, Tackling the Trolley Crisis, seeks to resolve the crisis by using existing resources without seeking more capital spend. It maps out how to increase capacity by reopening beds which were closed, increasing recruitment and retention of staff to provide adequate step-down facilities, home help and home care packages.

The trolley crisis has hit Mayo University Hospital where there is a severe staff shortage in the emergency department. It is down five full-time staff from this time last year. It is a crazy situation. How can one expect two full-time staff nurses take full responsibility for everything that happens in that department and for every individual who comes through its doors? There is no point in giving newly qualified staff to these departments because there is no time to train them. Doing so only puts them into a dangerous environment.

This has to be examined. Will the Minister for Health come to the House in the first week when we return next year to discuss the trolley crisis, what happened over Christmas and to discuss the plans he has for once and for all to alleviate what is an inhumane situation, both for people presenting at emergency departments and the staff who work in them? I commend each and every member of staff in every emergency department for the wonderful job they do every day.


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