When will health matter enough?

Comment & Opinion

ALARM STILL RINGING Serious issues at MUH have been flagged for many years, but little has changed.

Covering the problems in MUH is not scaremongering, it is public-service reporting

The Mayo News has focused a considerable amount of time in recent years on issues at Mayo University Hospital, particularly at the hospital’s Emergency Department.
We’ve been criticised at times for shining a spotlight in there. Some people have accused us of ‘scaremongering’, saying it could make people slow to use the hospital because of ‘negative reporting’.
We’ve made the point several times on this page that we take the responsibility of reporting on issues in MUH very seriously. We do not report stories on a whim, or to sell more papers. We do it because it matters.
We speak to people on the ground – individuals whose bonafides we can rely on. This includes staff as well as people who have had to rely on the hospital’s services. We’ve withheld plenty of stories that have come our way because we just have not been able to make them stand, for reasons beyond our control and in the interests of fair and verifiable public-service reporting.
Because the last thing we want is to make people fearful of using the hospital. It is a vital service in our county. We won’t report on a whim, but we will ask hard questions when they need to be asked.
We wonder, are those same critics accusing health watchdog HIQA of scaremongering when its inspection last summer (not the busiest time for the Emergency Department) found the ED non-compliant in three different categories?
The damning report, published in December, found MUH to be non-complaint in terms of staffing in the Emergency Department, and also with regards to ‘person-centred care and support’, highlighting how overcrowding issues compromised the ‘dignity, privacy and autonomy’ of patients.
The HIQA report was released a week after The Mayo News covered staff in the hospital’s serious concerns about ED overcrowding and the underlying causes of the issue.
Staff highlighted the need for more community services (to reduce the number of people coming to the ED) and better step-down services (to free up hospital beds by moving out people who no longer need acute care). Such actions, they argued, would reduce the likelihood of people languishing on trolleys in the Emergency Department.
But, right now, the ED is still a bottleneck.
“We’re always talking about the increasing level of risk in the Emergency Department, but the sad part is that this appears to be accepted as a given by the HSE,” one worker said.

‘Not fair’
Mayo Fine Gael TD Michael Ring told The Mayo News last December that he has been ‘inundated with complaints’ about overcrowding at the hospital.
Deputy Ring called for a forum of all stakeholders to be brought together in a bid to address the issue.
“I’ve been inundated with complaints from people who have been on trolleys and whose loved ones have been on trolleys. It is not fair to the nurses and doctors in there who have been under tremendous pressure,” Deputy Ring said.
The numbers prove the extent of the issue. In 2022 overcrowding at MUH reached record levels for the second successive year. Overcrowding is measured by the number of patients who are admitted to the hospital and placed on trolleys because no beds are available.
A staggering 4,407 patients languished on a trolley in 2022, up from the previous record of 2,776 in 2021. Still think we’re scaremongering?
To see how bad things are, one has only to look at our reporter Edwin McGreal’s eyewitness account in this week’s paper, in which he relates his experience with the ED last week.
That our health services is perpetually in continuous crisis indicates a chronic failure within this government and within previous governments.
Demand for Emergency Department services has increased since the height of the pandemic and the lifting of restrictions, but our health service’s inability to adapt and evolve for years is a chicken that is very much coming home to roost right now.
What will it take for meaningful change to occur? When will our health matter enough to our government?