Over 460 left waiting more than 24 hours in Emergency Department

By Mary Dennehy

MORE than 460 patients over the age of 75 were left waiting more than 24 hours in Tallaght University Hospital’s Emergency Department between January and November of last year.

The figures released by the HSE also, most recently, record 63 older persons waiting in November 2019 for over 24 hours at Tallaght – one of the country’s largest Emergency Departments (ED) –which  has experienced a 25 per cent jump in adult ED attendances since 2012.

Tallaght Hospital 03 compressor

Tallaght University Hospital

Nationally, between January 1 and November 30, some 15,344 patients aged 75 and over were waiting more than 24 hours in emergency departments across the country, 467 of whom were seeking treatment at Tallaght.

The figures, which were released by the HSE to Sinn Fein through a parliamentary question, also note that 1,877 patients over 75 years were waiting more than 24 hours in emergency departments nationwide in November 2019.

Reacting to the figures, Dublin South West TD Sean Crowe said: “It is unacceptable on every level that many of our older citizens were left languishing on a trolley for two days.

“Older patients are often among the most vulnerable citizens in our hospitals due to their age and the additional medical needs that can sometimes accompany aging.

“Being treated urgently prevents escalation of injury and ensures safety and swift treatment.”

The Sinn Féin deputy added: “I have spoken to many staff members in Tallaght University Hospital (TUH) and they are at boiling point.

“The doctors, nurses, and all of the staff in Tallaght do an amazing job but they are having to do more with less resources.

“They are treating more patients than ever before.

“All throughout 2019 Fine Gael has displayed disregard for all aspects of the health service and has no real plan to address the overcrowding crisis in Tallaght University Hospital.”

In its reply to Sinn Féin, the HSE also said that the number of older persons presenting to emergency departments is growing higher than the overall increase in the general population – with older people presenting to ED much more likely to be admitted.

Research carried out by TUH predicts that Tallaght’s older person’s population will grow by 322 per cent by 2036, and at current admission rates and length of stay, 50 additional beds will be needed in the next 15 years.

TUH now operates one of the largest ED departments in the country following an expansion in 2015, which doubled the size of the facility.

In 2019, adult ED attendances at Tallaght exceeded 52,300, an increase of more than 10,600 attendances since 2012 – a 25 per cent jump in eight years.

In a comment to The Echo, a spokesperson for TUH said: “Since ED expanded four years ago, we have recruited additional nursing and NCHD (Non Consultant Hospital Doctor) staff.

“Through a number of process improvements we have also improved how we manage patients and this has resulted in a reduction in medical length of stay by 2.4 days.

“However, it is clear that current demand for beds exceeds the hospital’s current available capacity and there is a clear underlying requirement to develop additional onsite bed capacity.”

The hospital has proposed a 72-bed capital expansion plan which would provide additional bed capacity, improve decontamination facilities and improve quality of care in a range of key areas.

The proposed 72 single-bed facility on a shovel-ready site on the hospital campus is currently undergoing a HSE cost benefit analysis.

“The hospital is awaiting the outcome of a HSE cost benefit analysis of this proposal and would hope that we will receive support”, the spokesperson said.

“The hospital regrets any delay a patient of any age experiences whilst awaiting a bed once a decision is made to admit a patient.

“We appreciate the volume of patients attending the Emergency Department can cause delays in waiting times.

“Patients are prioritised according to clinical need and we would ask the public to attend their GP in the first instance where appropriate.”

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