Additional acute beds ‘will solve A&E crisis’

Trying to address overcrowding in our hospitals without a focus on acute beds is “little more than political PR initiatives” which will have little impact for patients, a doctors’ group has claimed.

Doctors have claimed that moves to address overcrowding in hospitals which do not focus on the shortage of acute beds are “little more than political PR initiatives” which will have little impact for patients.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s daily trolley and ward watch report claimed there were 299 patients awaiting a bed yesterday morning — seven of the country’s largest hospital had 20 or more patients in that position, including Cork University Hospital; Beaumont and Tallaght Hospitals in Dublin; University Hospital Limerick; and the Midland Regional Hospitals in Mullingar and Tullamore.

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has launched a campaign to highlight how the shortage of acute beds is causing “chaos” in emergency departments. “Put simply there is nowhere for patients who need to be admitted to go and they are then left in an overcrowded, unsafe emergency department environment,” it said.

Dr Peadar Gilligan, chairman of the IMO’s consultant committee and a consultant in emergency medicine at Beaumont Hospital, said overcrowding was now a year-round problem and it was inherently wrong to just focus on “winter” initiatives.

“Throughout the summer, for example, Beaumont Hospital has had about 20 patients waiting for beds each day. In other areas, the problems in emergency departments actually get worse during the summer as the local population swells with holiday-makers.”

The Beaumont consultant also warned that demand for hospital space will rise this year, in part because of the decision a year ago to cancel elective surgeries. He said those patients whose elective procedures have been cancelled often end up in emergency departments.

“Very often, what might have been elective a year ago becomes critical now. We warned last year that cancelling elective procedures would have consequences and those consequences will include increased demand in the coming months from patients who were not treated last year.”

Finally, Dr Gilligan pointed to the poor recruitment and retention of doctors, nurses and health professionals. “Ireland must do better and ensure we have a highly trained medical workforce that is sufficient to meet the needs of patients,” he said.

“Currently we have a situation of being unable to recruit consultants and our doctors in training are emigrating in greater numbers each year.”

He concluded by saying the crisis will not only continue but is guaranteed to worsen as long as the Government refuse to fund additional public beds.

“Our population is rising and we have cut 1,600 public beds from our hospitals. That goes back to an ill-fated decision in 2004 to reduce the number of acute public hospital beds. We’re still paying a price for that.

“Put those together and a crisis in our public hospitals is inevitable. Any attempt to deal with the problem which doesn’t increase the bed count is PR-led, not evidence-based.”

Editorial: 10


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