A record number of patients were admitted to Naas Hospital on trolleys last month.
A total of 516 patients were admitted through the hospital’s accident and emergency department without a bed being immediately available.
This is more than double the figure for January 2017 (240). It is the highest figure for January since the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation began compiling figures in 2006.
The lowest number of patients taken into Naas Hospital without a bed in that period was 45 and that was in 2007.
The next highest number recorded in Naas was 491 in 2011.
Last month’s figure is not surprising given the reports of overcrowding that have emanated from the hospital in recent weeks and the number of warnings issued by the Health Service Executive to patients to stay away and visit their GP instead, if possible.
Nationally 12,200 patients were without a bed at the 30-plus hospitals monitored by the INMO.
This, says the INMO, is an 18% increase over the numbers from last year “which themselves were a record high and a 128% increase on the numbers recorded in 2007”.
Naas was not the most overcrowded hospital for the period in the State or in the eastern region, which includes the major Dublin hospitals. Nevertheless, INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said the level of overcrowding is appalling the conditions experienced in emergency departments “are now beyond anything we have ever seen”.
Ms Ní Sheaghda added: “It now amounts to a humanitarian crisis for patients and is a risk rich environment for those trying to work in such chaotic conditions.”
She claimed health employers have completely fallen down on their obligation to provide a safe place of work and legislation requires employers to carry out risk assessments and put in place mitigating measures.
She said there was no evidence that any risk assessments were carried out in the hospitals or the emergency departments.
“Nurses cannot be expected to tolerate such appalling and dangerous working conditions and at this point many member of the public are openly asking the nurses how they could tolerate such a situation,” said the spokesperson.
She also questioned whether standards regarding fire safety, personal protection, infection control and hygiene “have gone out the window”, adding the INMO will “have to take the necessary steps to protect the safety, health and welfare of our members”.