Yesterday, there were 679 people across the country being treated on trolleys. Today, the number is 649. Behind the numbers are some horrific and appalling experiences for people in emergency departments. They are simply appalling and should not be tolerated by the Government. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, INMO, yesterday described the situation as "obscene" and said, "Winter has not even started, and Irish hospitals are overwhelmed". It went on to say that nurses are faced with an inhumane working environment, while patients are put at ever-increasing risk.
I spoke to an eye witness in Cork University Hospital. The person went there on Tuesday at 3 p.m. with a family member and was there until 5 a.m. the following morning. He said that what he had witnessed was simply unbelievable. He said the doctors and nurses were under "savage pressure", to use his own phrase. He could not comprehend how they were able to work under such circumstances. People were sitting on chairs and lying on trolleys everywhere. They ran out of seats to sit on. The chronically ill were in a desperate situation, to the great anxiety of their relatives. There were many elderly people there. I can give another illustration of these experiences. If one travels to Clare, Limerick or north Cork, and this did not start today or yesterday, the overwhelming issue on the doorsteps or when one meets people is their experiences at the emergency department of University Hospital Limerick. There is real anger from the relatives of loved ones who have gone through terrible experiences due to the overcrowding.
Critically, the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine has said that this is costing lives as people are dying as a result of the overcrowding. It says that 350 to 400 excess deaths are occurring each year because of the state of the emergency departments, the overcrowding and the long delays in treatment in those departments. This was confirmed to me by experienced medical authorities in Cork University Hospital, who reluctantly said that they had to admit and confirm that some people who attend the hospital will die as a result of the overcrowding and delayed treatment. In addition, there is a chronic shortage of consultants and a lack of rehabilitation beds, step-down facilities and home care packages.
When will the moratorium on the recruitment of staff be lifted? There are approximately 1,000 posts on the front line unfilled currently. When will the winter plan be announced? It is incredible that this is November and it has not been announced. Why is there this reactive approach as opposed to a proactive one from the Government? Will the Taoiseach, at a minimum, commit to lifting the embargo?