No clear answer to A&E safety question on Morning Ireland

The HSE’s acting national director of acute hospitals, Angela Fitzgerald, was asked eight times on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland if emergency departments are safe but failed to answer.

Cathal Mac Coille: Are all of these hospitals safe?

Angela Fitzgerald: I think if you have an emergency, I think the first thing is that we have a GP system. If you have a concern, you should go through your GP. I think if you have an emergency, there is a triage system — urgent emergencies will be seen. I think what we are doing is seeking to stabilise the situation. If you look at yesterday, over the day, we halved the numbers...

[Interrupting] CMC: The INMO are saying some hospitals are unsafe. For instance, Drogheda. Are these hospitals safe or unsafe? AF: Overcrowding is not a good situation. We’re working directly with the INMO and in relation to hospital management to alleviate the pressures. So the actions that are happening today, those 20 beds that become available, will immediately alleviate the situation.

CMC: Are they safe?

AF: I think what we have to do is make overcrowding...

CMC: Are they safe?

AF: The overcrowding situation is not an acceptable situation and I think we’ve made that clear.

CMC: Are these hospitals safe? The overcrowding we’re hearing, I presume you have, the INMO are saying in some of these cases the hospitals should go off-call.

AF: We have done that.

CMC: Do you accept that assessment now? As far as you’re concerned, with the information you have now, are all of these hospitals safe for patients to enter the emergency department?

AF: I think in terms of urgent emergencies, we have a good system of prioritising, a triage system at the front door... We know overcrowding is not acceptable and creates safety concerns. That’s why we’ve done the escalation. That’s why yesterday we managed to clear half the numbers waiting. What we also know is we have to...

CMC: I’m sorry to press you on this but this is a serious matter for patients or potential patients and I feel I have to ask the question one more time. Are all of these hospitals, which the INMO are saying in some cases are unsafe, in the HSE’s view, as of now, are they safe?

AF: I think what we are saying, Cathal, is overcrowding cannot be resolved overnight. What we are working with hospitals is to create the safest environment we can. That involves putting beds up the wards on occasions but more importantly, it involves all forms of escalation, including discharge of patients not just to long-term care, but also to home But all of those measures are being invoked. We are working with the hospitals on an hourly basis...

CMC: You can’t say they’re safe.

AF: We can say safety is the priority and what we’re doing is to make sure...

CMC: You can’t say they’re safe.

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