Hospitals need emergency treatment

Eighteen people were waiting on trolleys for treatment at University Hospital Kerry on Wednesday - a small fraction of the 384 patients waiting in hospitals nationally. So far this year, over 57,000 people have spent time on a trolley, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.

That’s an astounding number - 57,000 people who had to wait to be admitted to hospital, despite being ill enough to require admission in the first place. And that’s only for the first seven months of the year.

What will the number be by the time the figures are added up in December?

Alarm bells should be ringing all over the country. But these kind of things don’t really seem to get much attention any more. The scandalous state of our hospitals has been part of the news landscape for so long now that to highlight it again is to risk repetition.

But we can’t ignore what’s going on in our hospitals.

We can’t ignore the fact that we still have a failing service.

And we shouldn’t have to accept it.

In Kerry, the number on trolleys for July is actually slightly down compared to last year - 134 compared to 144. So that’s something, I suppose.

But considered over a longer period, the figures are a disgrace. Ten years ago, in 2007, there were 43 waiting on trolleys for the month of July.

The numbers have been up and down over the decade, but the general trend is that more and more patients have to wait before admission.

It’s the same all over the country. And in Kerry, where we also have a serious problem with rural areas losing GP coverage, all the numbers add up to a worrying backdrop to the coming winter.

Part of the problem is that we have an ageing population and more elderly people are requiring treatment.

Age is no barrier to waiting though - the HSE said last week that nearly 6,000 over the age of 75 were left waiting for more than 24 hours before being admitted to emergency departments.

The Minister for Health has, apparently, “expressed his concerns” on the situation.

That’ll be a great help to anyone with a family member waiting for admission to an Irish hospital. Our health service is a national emergency in bad need of treatment for way too long.