Updated: 12/01/18 : 06:51:28
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Woman (80) on Galway hospital trolley for 70 hours

Galway University Hospital, attended by many Sligo patients on referral, saw an 80-year-old woman kept on a trolley for more than 70 hours in the emergency department.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said there were 544 patients on trolleys yesterday in emergency departments, or on wards, waiting admission to a bed in hospitals around the country.

In Sligo, 17 patients were affected by the trolley crisis.

The Health Service Executive's (HSE) figures put the number of patients on trolleys at 396, with Galway the worst affected.

Unlike the INMO figures, the HSE figures do not give the number of patients placed on wards, who are waiting for admission for a bed, having already been admitted from an emergency department.

Meanwhile, the HSE has estimated that around 20,000 people had flu or flu symptoms in the last week and that flu levels may have peaked, or may do so next week.

Assistant National Director for Public and Child Health Dr Kevin Kelleher said there had been a threefold increase in flu levels in the last week, which he described as significant.

He said that four weeks into the flu season, there was probably another four to six weeks of flu activity.

The hospital overcrowding crisis is putting pressure on ambulance services as paramedics say they have to wait to discharge patients to emergency departments.

The Taoiseach last night insisted the government is taking action to address the trolley crisis.

The HSE said the current flu season is adding to the problems; almost 20,000 people had it last week and it is not set to peak until next week.

Leo Varadkar says they will do all they can to fix the problem.

"I certainly don't want anyone to face the indignity or the risks that come with prolonged trolley waits in our hospitals," he said.

"The Minister for Health and his team are doing everything they can to alleviate the situation and we've given him authorisation to continue to increase the number of beds in our hospitals and also we've asked him to particularly focus on making sure that best practice is mainstreamed across our health service."