Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, says 2019 must be the last year so many children, women and men are left waiting on trolleys in Irish hospitals. He has also called on government to stop blaming doctors for the crisis.  

The INMO has today released its Trolley Watch figures for 2019. Nearly 120,000 patients waited on a trolley in 2019, almost 10% more than 2018, and the highest number ever recorded. Over 1,300 were children younger than 16.

The Irish Patients’ Association also released analysis showing that this huge increase in patients waiting on trolleys comes in spite of there being no increase in the total numbers attending emergency departments nor in the total numbers being admitted.

 Speaking from Wicklow, Deputy Donnelly said, “2019 is now officially the worst on record for patients waiting on trolleys. This is in spite of enormous increases in the health budget in recent years, and in spite of numerous broken promises by government that things would get better.

“The pain and suffering endured by patients waiting on trolleys cannot be underestimated. Over 15,000 were women and men over 75 years of age, waiting on a trolley for more than 24 hours. There were numerous cases of people waiting for days, stuck in corridors.

“The impact on our healthcare professionals is immense too. They are being asked to work in inhumane conditions, doing their very best to treat people without the available beds, and often without timely access to diagnostics, operating theatres, resus rooms, and much more.

“Government spending on healthcare has soared from €12.7bn in 2015 to €18.3bn for 2020 – an unprecedented amount of money. And yet things are getting worse and worse, for patients and for staff. It is deeply regrettable, though entirely true to form at this point, that the government would try to blame other people for their failures. Blaming doctors working in emergency medicine, however, marks a new low.

“That trolley figures soar while attendance figures are the same as last year is really important. The government keeps talking about the service being ‘demand led’, implying that the trolley figures are simply due to more people coming to ED. It turns out that this claim is bogus. Trolley figures are growing because so many parts of the system are under pressure – from general practice to emergency care to elective care to community care.

“What is most frustrating is that the solutions exist, but the government refuses to use them, year after year. End new entrant pay inequality – not as part of some long drawn out negotiation, but now. End the hiring embargo for nurses and other healthcare professionals. Give GPs access to diagnostics. Open diagnostics in hospitals far longer than they are now. Increase home care packages so patients can be discharged.

“2020 must be the year that things stop getting worse and start getting better in healthcare in Ireland. What has happened in recent years cannot be allowed continue – patients, their families, and our healthcare professionals all deserve much, much better,” concluded Deputy Donnelly.