The country’s beleaguered health system has come under fresh criticism after the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine slammed the “anaemic” response to emergency department overcrowding which it claimed will mean more patients dying.
The Department of Health admitted that there had been “significant” delivery challenges in attempts to lower ED overcrowding, while separate figures show that almost 30,000 adults and children were waiting more than 18 months for inpatient/day treatment at the end of March.
In its annual report published yesterday, the Department of Health said it had provided additional funding of €117m to the HSE last year to relieve ED overcrowding, with €74m going to increase the number of long-term nursing home care places.
It also outlined how, last April, the ED Taskforce published an action plan “to make the best use of existing capacity in the health service and to improve leadership, governance, planning and oversight”.
But the report accepted there was a “significant delivery challenge experienced” last year in meeting targets on delayed discharges and waiting times. However, the report said: “Clear progress was made to reduce the numbers of patients on waiting lists by end December 2015.”
But the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine accused both the Department of Health and the HSE of “an abdication of responsibility”.
It said in a statement: “For the HSE and Department of Health to claim improvements in the face of very clear evidence to the contrary and to attempt to explain the problem away as if they bear no responsibility for the lack of planning and resourcing of acute hospital services to deal with the increasing number of patients presenting for acute care is both disingenuous but also reflects the inertia that pervades both organisations.”
It said continuing ED overcrowding would result in worse patient outcomes and “will inevitably result in further patients dying unnecessarily”.
Separately, figures for the first three months of the year published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) show that at the end of last month 29,782 adults and children had been waiting more than six months for inpatient/day treatment. More than 1,200 people were waiting more than 18 months.
Meanwhile, an inspection conducted by health watchdog Hiqa found that a door in a special storage area at University Maternity Hospital Limerick was missing.
The inspection of the delivery ward. which consists of a labour ward and a theatre department, was carried out in January by the Health Information and Quality Authority.
Overall, the report stated equipment in the labour ward and theatre ward were clean with some exceptions, although inspectors said improvements could be made in overall general maintenance and cleaning processes and safe injection practices.
A temporary holding area known as the dirty utility room for soiled/contaminated equipment and waste materials awaiting disposal had no door.
The inspectors were told that a new door was to be installed.
The dirty utility room was used for the examination and processing of clinical specimens and, as there was no door, these processes were in sight of visitors and hospital personnel.
Bags of clinical waste were found at the doorway of the dirty utility room awaiting collection.
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