ED patients 'will die' due to overcrowding

Patients ‘will die and others will have much worse medical outcomes than they should have' if something is not done to tackle the overcrowding crisis in the country's Emergency Departments, doctors have insisted.

According to the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine (IAEM), it is ‘gravely concerned' about the current situation.

It made its comments after figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) revealed that 563 patients were waiting on trolleys on Monday, January 5, which the organisation described as an ‘all time high'. However, today (Tuesday), these figures reached a record 601.

Speaking on RTE radio this morning, the HSE's deputy national director of acute hospitals, Angela Fitzgerald, said that such high levels of overcrowding ‘created safety concerns', but she insisted that the HSE was working to rectify the situation.

She said that around 800 patients nationwide are waiting to be discharged from hospitals, compared to around 600 at this time last year.

The IAEM said that a number of step must be taken to tackle the current overcrowding situation, including the transfer of these 800 patients whose acute care is finished ‘from acute hospital beds to appropriate alternative facilities'.

"These facilities include long-stay residential care, nursing homes or the patient's own home with appropriate community supports in place," it said.

It also called for the processing of patients who wish to take part in the Fair Deal scheme to be accelerated.

"The historical pattern of ED crowding is that it worsens through the month of January and it is inevitable therefore that the situation will worsen significantly unless appropriate steps are urgently taken.

"If steps are not taken to decant patients from grossly crowded EDs, it is inevitable that patients will die and others will have much worse medical outcomes than they should have, resulting in longer lengths of stay and additional health service costs as well as avoidable grief and suffering," the IAEM added.

The INMO has described the number of people on trolleys as ‘truly shocking'. It noted that on Monday, 50 patients were on trolleys in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda and 41 in St Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin.

"Emergency department overcrowding was declared a national emergency when we had just under 500 people on trolleys in 2006. We now have more patients on trolleys in the first working week of the New Year, with the situation worsening on a daily basis. This is a national emergency. This is a health service crisis which must be addressed," commented INMO general secretary, Liam Doran.

Meanwhile, INMO members working at Dublin's Beaumont Hospital are set to serve notice of industrial action today and commence a work-to-rule on January 27, following a vote on Monday night.

It has also been confirmed that the HSE's director for acute hospitals and chairman of the Emergency Task Force, Dr Tony O'Connell, is to resign. Mr O'Connell, who was only appointed last May, is from Australia and is to return there.



[Posted: Tue 06/01/2015]


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