Seriously ill patients waited over 24 hours on average for bed at three hospitals

Average wait times to admit seriously ill patients at least a day in hospitals in Cork and Tallaght

A medic in PPE and ambulances outside the Accident and Emergency department at the Mater Hospital in Dublin. Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn has warned significant levels of Covid-19 mortality lie ahead for Ireland and "hospitals are under intense pressure". Picture date: Monday January 18, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story IRISH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Seriously ill patients attending three Irish hospitals have to wait at least a day on average before being admitted, new figures show.

Patients attending Mercy hospital in Cork this winter had to wait an average of 25.3 hours before being admitted, according to the HSE. The figure for Cork University Hospital was 24.5 hours, and for Tallaght, 23.9 hours.

More than 32,000 patients have had to wait at least 24 hours for a hospital bed this winter, including over 7,000 since Christmas.

Despite an improvement in hospital overcrowding since trolley numbers peaked at the start of January, 1,014 patients were left waiting more than 24 hours for a bed last week alone.


The figures were disclosed at a meeting of the Emergency Department Taskforce, which heard there have been 12 major patient safety incidents in hospital emergency departments this winter.

About €900 million has been spent on winter planning over the past three years, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly pointed out at the meeting. While acknowledging progress in some areas, Mr Donnelly questioned what had been achieved for this outlay.

The Irish Patients’ Association called for a clinical audit of risk areas in health to establish the extent to which delays are affecting patient outcomes. Spokesman Stephen McMahon said he was “really concerned” about the level of excess deaths occurring this winter. “It’s universally accepted that overcrowding leads to more patients deaths. We need to understand this better.”

Tallaght University Hospital has had the highest number of patients waiting for long periods this winter, with 3,165 breaches of the 24-hour target since the start of September, according to the HSE data.

University Hospital Limerick is close behind, with 3,041 patients waiting longer than 24 hours, followed by CUH, with 2,835 long-waiting patients.

In contrast, just 27 patients were left waiting for over a day in St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny; 44 in Portiuncula hospital, Ballinasloe; and 82 in University Hospital Waterford.

Some 6,659 people aged 75 and older have had to wait longer than the target time of nine hours to be admitted or discharged since Christmas, the figures show.

Beaumont Hospital in Dublin had the most breaches of the nine-hour target for seeing over-75s this winter at 3,038. At St Vincent’s University Hospital, 2,705 older patients were not seen within the target time; and at Sligo University Hospital, there were 2,635 breaches of the target.

The emergency department in Tallaght has had the longest average wait time for admitted and non-admitted patients this winter, at 14 hours. Naas General Hospital recorded an average wait of 12.5 hours and CUH 11.6 hours. In contrast, the average wait in Kilkenny was just 4 hours and in University Hospital Waterford 4.9 hours.

CUH has had the highest trolley numbers this winter with a daily average of 34.7, followed by Galway University Hospitals at 32. University Hospital Waterford recorded no trolleys.

The number of delayed transfers of care – well patients who cannot be discharged due to a lack of stepdown options – has remained stubbornly high all winter, and stood at 570 at the end of January.

Attendances at emergency departments (EDs) last year were up almost 15 per cent on the previous year and 9 per cent on 2019. Admission grew 11 per cent on 2021, and 5 per cent on 2019.

The ED in the Mater hospital has been the busiest this winter with 38,900 attendances. Sligo General Hospital has seen the biggest increase in attendances with a 68 per cent rise since the winter of 2019/20.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times