There are 28 beds closed at South Tipperary General Hospital at weekends due to cutbacks while the hospital is now dealing with hundreds of extra patients from North Tipperary, it has emerged.
The HSE has confirmed that there have been 10 full time bed closures at the hospital since last August and a further 18 beds have been open only five days a week since July last year.
However, reports from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) that a further ten beds will be closed at the hospital at weekend during this month were not confirmed by the HSE.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation is campaigning for the public service moratorium on recruitment of public service staff to be amended to allow hospitals like South Tipperary General to replace frontline staff they have lost.
INMO official Liz Curran also said South Tipperary General requires more government funding due to the hundreds of extra patients from North Tipperary it is now treating arising from the reconfiguration of hospital services in the Mid-West Region.
She was speaking following a front page story in The Nationalist last week, which highlighted the growing problem of patients having to be accommodated on trolleys in corridors at the Clonmel hospital due to bed closures and staff shortages. One day two weeks ago, the INMO’s Trolley Watch Survey reported 20 patients on trolleys at the hospital.
Clonmel man Derek Gibbons, who spoke out in the report about what he witnessed at the hospital while a patient there, challenged the county’s Oireachtas members, particularly government party representatives Tom Hayes and Denis Landy, to come spend a night at the hospital and witness the overcrowding.
After reading the article, 87 year-old Johnny Sheehan from Fethard has wrote a letter to The Nationalist’s editor describing his own experience of spending a night on a trolley on a corridor at the hospital last week.
He praised the care he received from the hospital’s medical staff but recounted how he had to use his jeans as a pillow; how his legs “hung painfully over the trolley” and he was unable to rest properly. His letter is printed in full on page 3.
The hospital’s trolley crisis was raised in the Dail last week by opposition deputies Mattie McGrath and Seamus Healy, who condemned the situation as “totally unacceptable”.
Deputy Healy appealed to the Minister for Health to re-open some of the closed beds to deal with the situation while Deputy McGrath
said the HSE and Minister should be ashamed.
Meanwhile, Deputy Hayes and Senator Landy responded to Mr Gibbons invitation by saying they were not going to engage in “gimmicks” and pointed out that they were well aware of the situation at South Tipperary General.
They said they had been in contact with STGH management to discuss the difficulties at the hospital and were arranging to meet with Health Minister James Reilly this week to highlight the difficulties at the hospital and to press for more funding in view of the significant increase in patients it is treating and for a relaxation of the staff recruitment moratorium.
Deputy Hayes agreed with the INMO that South Tipperary was dealing with extra patients from North Tipperary but he believes this will be to the hospital’s benefit as Minister Reilly’s policy was that the “money follows the patients” and hospitals with increased activity will get more funding as a result.
He said he will be pressing home this arguement to Minister Reilly at the meeting.
Meanwhile, Liz Curran said the INMO met with STGH management a few weeks ago about the hospital’s Emergency Department and a working group has now been set up to identify ways of improving bed capacity at the hospital at busy times.
She said the growing incidence of patients being accommodated on trolleys on corridors at the hospital was due to a number of factors. They include bed closures and staff reductions due to budget cut backs and the public service recruitment moratorium; and a drop in the number of patients availing of private hospital medical care leading to more patients presenting to the emergency departments of hospitals like South Tipperary General.
And she said several hundred more patients from North Tipperary have been referred by their GPs or self-referred to STGH’s Emergency Department in recent times and the INMO believes its due to the reconfiguration of hospital services in the Mid-West region.
Ms Curran explained that the Mid-West Regional Hospital now takes patients formally admitted to the Emergency Departments of Nenagh and Ennis General Hospitals. This has meant the Mid-West Regional Hospital’s ED is running at capacity and there is a perception in North Tipperary that patients will have a better experience at the ED in South Tipperary General.
“However when the budgets are done for the different HSE areas South Tipperary General Hospital will not get any additional funding. They are getting the patients but not any portion of the Mid-West Regional Hospital’s budget to treat these patients,” she pointed out.
Meanwhile, the HSE in addition to outlining the bed closure figures at STGH said there had been a reduction of 16 full time staff at the hospital due to retirements that were not replaced between November last year and February. The hospital has been addressing the shortfall through management of rosters, redeployment of staff and other measures.
25 St. Patrick’s Place,
Further to your article on Wednesday last June 27, re patients on trolleys in South Tipperary General Hospital.
I was a patient in A & E on Monday and Tuesday last, having been taken there by ambulance from my home with an ongoing cardiac problem. The ambulance crew were very professional and reassuring and very soon had me in A & E.
I was almost immediately seen by a doctor, had an X-ray, admitted for further tests and taken out to the corridor and told I would be spending the night there on a trolley, as there was no bed.
I was given two blankets, but no pillow as they didn’t have any pillowslips, so I folded my jeans and used them as a pillow.
That evening the only patient in Ward 6, Med 2, was transferred to another Ward and Ward 6 closed down. I was told next day Ward 5 was also closed.
While myself and about twenty others languished on the most uncomfortable excuse for a bed bar none, my legs hung painfully over the trolley and at 87, I was unable to turn or rest properly and the pedestrian traffic didn’t help either. I have to say that the doctors and nurses do a wonderful job in treating and caring for the patients every need, they were most helpful and courteous, despite the fact that they have to work under the most draconian conditions known to man since Cromwellian times, imposed on them by Management, H.S.E. and Minister Reilly, all three of whom quake in their taxpayer funded shoes at the mention of Troika, fearing that if they don’t obey Fraulein Merkel, she would be annoyed.
It is past time that Reilly was asked to leave the Irish Office of the Burdestag and spend a night on a trolley in South Tipperary General Hospital.
Is mise, John Sheehan.