Covid19 – Hospitals Have Never Been As Empty

Throughout this coronavirus pandemic in Ireland, we have been constantly reminded that restrictions were necessary in order to keep pressure off the HSE and avoid a situation where the HSE becomes overwhelmed.

Taken at face value this sentiment appears to be very logical and acceptable, particularly during the first lockdown, when we were heading into the unknown in terms of dealing with a new problem. But let’s examine this assertion more closely.

Let us look at some figures which display the extent to which our hospitals have been over-crowded in previous years as compared with 2020.

Figures quoted below come from the INMO.

“Every morning at 8am, INMO members count how many patients are waiting in the Emergency Department for a bed and how many are waiting in wards elsewhere in the hospital. The INMO Trolley Watch counts the number of patients who have been admitted to acute hospitals, but who are waiting for a free bed. These patients are often being treated on trolleys in corridors, but they may also be on chairs, in waiting rooms, or simply wherever there’s space. The INMO started Trolley Watch in 2004” (IMNO).

Today is the 2nd Thursday of November, and we have 160 people on trolleys or chairs across the Irish hospital system, compared with 571 people on the same day last year.

Let us compare some more dates between 2020 and previous years. In order to provide a fair comparison, we will look at the 2nd Thursday of each month over the last 5 years.

Numbers of patients in hospital waiting on a bed:

 20202019201820172016
2nd Thurs in November160571525433410
2nd Thurs in October216487483483313
2nd Thurs in September170454350354407
2nd Thurs in August159463442351232
2nd Thurs in July107426296341366
2nd Thurs in June57404376384245
2nd Thurs in May74417449320378
2nd Thurs in April27489548345431
2nd Thurs in March106444614458511
2nd Thurs in February456465500477388
2nd Thurs in January520500544509443

As can be seen from the above figures, since lockdown was called in March, numbers of people waiting on beds in our hospital system rapidly declined. Since then, numbers of people waiting on beds has remained very low in comparison with other years, even after restrictions were eased during the summer.

Over crowding has been a long standing problem in Irish hospitals and it has absolutely nothing whatever to do with Covid19. It has been caused by a lack of capacity in the HSE system over a long time. Contrary to popular belief, this over-crowding in hospitals is not being caused by under-investment either. Governments consistently increase the budget of the HSE, and in fact continue to throw good money after bad in an attempt to solve the problem. The problem is not the amount of funding available in the HSE, the problem is the wasteful way in which that money is being used.

These hospital figures raise a number of questions:

  • In normal years, are there too many people in our hospital system who do not actually need to in hospital at all? Can patients in our health system be managed in a more suitable way?
  • How many people since March have not received the proper treatment in hospital that they would have received in previous years? What will be the knock-on effects? Perhaps more people will die from having appointments cancelled than have died from Covid19 itself.
  • Has the impact of Covid19 on our hospital system been greatly exaggerated? Our hospitals have never been as empty.

On October 22nd, when the latest level 5 restrictions commenced, there were just 171 people waiting for a hospital bed, as compared with 572 people on the same date in 2019. On that date there were 313 people in hospital with Covid19. In order words, the number of people in hospital with Covid19 on that date could have doubled and we still wouldn’t have reached 2019 levels of hospital over-crowding.

Tony Holohan has been the Chief Medical Officer since 2008. One would have to wonder why capacity in the HSE only appears to be a serious concern in 2020, when in previous years the figures have been much worse and the problems have gone unsolved.

We are being warned for the last 9 months that if we don’t obey a whole raft of oppressive restrictions that Covid19 would cause the HSE to over-load. The facts show that the HSE was already over-loaded, and Covid19 is being used as a scapegoat to cover up systemic failures within the HSE and Department of Health. 

Evidence is mounting to suggest that the over-reactive tyrannical restrictions imposed upon us by the Irish government will cause more deaths than deaths caused by Covid19. A perfect example of the cure being worse than the disease.

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