Watchdog praised for handling of investigation

The Irish Association for Emergency Medicine (IAEM) praised the Health Information and Quality Authority on the thoroughness of its investigation.

The body said consultants had expressed concerns to the authority about the practice of boarding patients on trolleys in an open corridor beside the hospital’s emergency department.

“These concerns and the many steps taken by consultants in emergency medicine in their fruitless attempts to have these concerns acted upon by hospital management were revealed at the coroner’s inquests that followed the tragic deaths of two admitted patients who were boarded on a corridor in the emergency department,” said the IAEM.

The association said it was “striking” that when Hiqa issued its edict to the new hospital chief executive last August, the hospital immediately ceased the practice.

“The problem disappeared within 72 hours confirming that the capacity to solve the problem lay with the hospital rather than with the emergency department. The inability or unwillingness to solve the problem before this was a result of the systematic failure of previous hospital management.”

Though the situation at Tallaght had improved, emergency department overcrowding remained a daily risk to patient safety in many other hospitals, a problem made worse in the past 12 months by further bed closures.

“A persistent but immoral belief that it is acceptable to lodge in-patients in or adjacent to emergency departments seems to underpin bed closures, as hospitals attempt to save money at all costs.”

The HSE said many of Hiqa’s recommendations were already being addressed through initiatives within the authority.

It said that 65% of patients in emergency departments were either discharged or admitted within the six-hour waiting target mentioned in the report.

Dr Phillip Crowley, HSE national director for quality and patient safety, said that increasing the number of patients discharged or treated within the six-hour target was still a priority for the HSE and the special delivery unit.

Tallaght Hospital Action Group’s Richie O’Reilly said the group was set up in 1991 to get the hospital built but stayed together to fight for services that were withdrawn or not provided.

“Hiqa has produced a good report for Tallaght as well as the rest of the country. We are hopeful Tallaght will become a flagship hospital, something I doubted in 2004 when I compared it to the Titanic.”


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