The number of trolleys deployed to accommodate patients at Portlaoise hospital fell substantially last year, but people who opted or were forced to go to its sister Dublin or midland hospitals faced a higher chance of being left on trollies or chairs compared with 2017.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation trolley watch figures for 2018 showed a 12% drop in the number of people forced to wait in the Emergency Department (A&E / ED) for beds at the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise.
In total, 2,815 people had to spend time on Portlaoise trollies. This compared to 3,203 in 2017 and 3,364 in 2016. It is higher than the 2,162 left waiting three years ago.
However, the December trolley figure for Portlaoise jumped to 231, compared to 160.
Laois patients did not escape the crisis.
Portlaoise is part of the Dublin Midland Hospital Group which has submitted a plan to the Minister for Health to downgrade the hospital.
Hospitals in the group are the first port of call if conditions cannot be treated in Portlaoise, or Laois patients opt to go elsewhere.
The total number of people left on trollies in the DMHG passed 21,700 last year, up ten per cent on the previous year.
Tullamore's hospital was the worst hit in the group. Its trolley count passed 5,800 last year, a massive 22% increase on 2017.
Most Laois patients with suspected fractures are referred to the Offaly hospital.
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Trolley numbers also rose at Tallaght University Hospital and Naas General. St James, which is the country's biggest hospital, saw its trolley count drop to 2,025 last year.
Nationally more than 108,000 were left waiting in A&Es or wards last year.
INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said 2018 was the worst year on record for overcrowding. She said waiting dramatically worsens outcomes for patients.
“The health service does not have enough beds to support our population. More beds mean more nurses, but the HSE simply can’t hire enough on these wages. It’s beyond time for the government to engage proactively with the INMO to resolve the crisis in Irish nursing and midwifery.
“Patients should be focused on recovering, but instead have to worry about waiting times, understaffing and a lack of beds. 2019 must-see real changes in policy and funding to resolve this once and for all,” she said.
The Minister for Health, Simon Harris has yet to announce the start of a consultation process on the future of Portlaoise hospital.
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