SERIOUS concerns have been raised this week as Letterkenny University Hospital (LUH) entered its second day of crisis.
Management at the campus issued a statement on Thursday to advise the public to stay away from the Emergency Department again unless in cases of genuine emergency.
This is due to the demands of overcrowding at the unit. The warning, “Full Capacity Protocol” has been activated on 88 days (almost three months) so far in 2016.
On Wednesday morning there were 26 patients waiting on trolleys at LUH, while 19 more were awaiting admission on wards, according to figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation. All elective work in theatres and the Day Services Unit was also cancelled.
There were a total of 14 Inpatient Non Urgent Elective procedures cancelled this week and a total of 50 day case procedures cancelled this week due to bed pressures, according to figures supplied to the Donegal News.
Letterkenny University Hospital has not used any beds in private facilities across the county to discharge patients during the current bed pressures.
Interim use of private nursing home facilities has been utilised in the past to facilitate hospital discharges and has been explored in response to the current situation. However, no private bed capacity has been identified within the community.
LUH were informed that there were four beds available in Donegal Hospice on Tuesday.
“Those palliative care patients who were in LUH were assessed by the Palliative Care Team at the Hospice and deemed not appropriate for hospice in-patient care,” a spokesman for Hospital management said.
He confirmed that there were no available spaces at the Emergency Department, resulting in a ‘Code Black’, the highest state of alert.
To compound matters, LUH issued a statement on Wednesday evening asking people to comply with visitor restrictions on Medical 3 and in the Coronary Care Unit due to number of confirmed cases of the Vomiting Bug (Norovirus).
“This means that even if there are available beds in either of these two wards they cannot be used at present for fear of spreading the vomiting bug,” he said.
A leading consultant in emergency medicine said that the numbers are going to get worse through the winter and people are going to die as a result.
Communications Officer for the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine Fergal Hickey claimed that significant numbers of people are going to die.
“And that isn’t scaremongering, that is a prediction of what is going to happen,” the Sligo-based Consultant warned.
Yesterday, the Day Services Unit nursing staff were looking after patients in the overflow escalation areas. This situation has progressively worsened over the past two weeks.
The hospital has seen an increase of 10% in ED attendances since January this year and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) believe that special emergency and immediate measures are now required.
INMO Industrial Relations Officer, Mrs Maura Hickey, is a former nurse in Letterkenny.
“This volume of overcrowding in Letterkenny University Hospital is not sustainable and cannot be allowed to continue. It is imperative that additional bed capacity and extra home help and home care packages are provided, with full funding, immediately, to ease this crisis situation.
“These patients, waiting for beds in the hospital and community hospitals, are individual people who require admission. Their loss of dignity, privacy and access to care in an appropriate environment cannot be forgotten and should be the HSE’s priority.
“Staff are increasingly struggling to deliver a high standard of care in an unsafe environment. This is an impossible working environment for staff and contravenes Health and Safety legislation which imposes an obligation upon all employers to maintain a safe working environment,” Ms Hickey said.
“This is such a crisis the INMO is also calling on HSE management to immediately engage with neighbouring health services, including in Northern Ireland, to see what additional capacity it can supply in the interests of patient care,” she added.
When asked about the INMO appeal on community beds, The HSE response was short and to the point.
“The HSE has no comment to make with regards to the INMO statement,” it read.
Meanwhile, management at the hospital has again appealed to people not to present at the emergency hospital, unless absolutely necessary.
A significant number of patients are awaiting admission and a full capacity protocol has been implemented.
Patients are being reviewed to identify those who could be discharged from the hospital.
People in need of medical attention are being asked to contact their GP or liaise with doctor on call services before travelling to the emergency department.
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