The INMO say yesterdays figure of 612 patients waiting on trolleys is the highest ever recorded and is expected to get worse.
With the country suffering one of the worst overcrowding crises ever, people with symptoms of flu are being urged not to go to hospitals.
The number of people with the flu has doubled in the last seven days plus the winter vomiting bug, and a severe respiratory virus, have put more pressure on emergency services.
Tallaght Hospital, which was one of the worst hit Dublin hospitals with 22 people on trolleys yesterday, released a statement saying:
“The hospital’s full capacity protocol is in place, and the public is asked to attend their GP in the first instance, where appropriate.
“We apologise for any delays in waiting times as patients in the emergency department are prioritised according to clinical need.”
Speaking following the release of the figures, INMO General Secretary Liam Doran said:
“612 patients, admitted for care, for whom there is no bed, is a truly shocking figure.
“The compromising of care, not to mention the loss of privacy and dignity, cannot go unchallenged and must be acknowledged and addressed by health management.
“We cannot allow this to become just another statistic and it must result in a fundamentally new approach to our health system as overcrowding, as the 2016 figures confirm, continues to grow.
“The stark reality is that in 2007, after it was declared a ‘National Emergency’, the number of patients on trolleys was recorded as 50,402.
“However, in 2016 this has increased by 86% to 93,621. This confirms that successive governments’ approach, to the public health service, have failed to address this problem and it must now become a top priority for a government wide response in 2017.”
The HSE is warning those who are vulnerable and have not received vaccinations to do so immediately. Hospitals have asked anyone with flu symptoms not to attend emergency departments.
The HSE yesterday confirmed the latest report from the HSPC shows “an almost doubling of the influenza-like illness rate (ILI) to 46.7, compared with 25.8 for the previous week. The ILI rate is expected to increase further in the coming weeks.”
Speaking at a press conference yesterday afternoon, Health Minister Simon Harris admitted hospitals face a “challenging time ahead”, but denied that there was a national emergency.
“We can all come out with a soundbite or a buzz word to try and address the issue of the day but what is happening here is much more important.
“Rather than having headlines about national emergencies or whatever else the headline and message I would like to get out today is the absolute importance of the vaccination and the absolute importance for all us as citizens doing everything we possibly can to minimise the spread of the flu.
“But what nobody could prepare for is the level of flu outbreak that we’ve seen, the particular way in which it is impacting on our older citizens and the huge increase in attendance.”
He then revealed his proposals to deal with the over crowding problems are:
Opening hospital diagnostic services until 8pm
Reviewing the length of stay of patients who were admitted during Christmas period
Support nursing homes staff so older people can be treated for flu on site.
Give GPs direct access to consultants.