Patients will continue to die needlessly on trolleys in overcrowded emergency departments until politicians do what needs to be done, a consultant in emergency medicine warned yesterday.
Fergal Hickey, who is also the spokesperson for the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine, said the number of patients on trolleys had risen since the political focus had shifted elsewhere.
“Our basic problem remains. There is not enough capacity; there are not enough hospital beds in the system to do what the health service needs to do,” he said.
Mr Hickey said there had been a brief improvement while there was a political focus on the crisis but the situation had deteriorated since the general election.
Yesterday there were 525 patients on trolleys in hospitals across the country; there were 533 on Tuesday. An analysis of the figures for March by the IMNO found it to be one of the worst months ever for trolley waiting lists
Mr Hickey said there was incontrovertible evidence to show that there were “bad outcomes” for people aged over 75 who remained on a trolley for over 12 hours.
“We know that when Australian data is applied to the Irish population, somewhere between 350 and 360 patients per year die as a direct result of being in overcrowded EDs,” he said.
“These are not patients who would have died anyway. These are patients who should not have died. We know that ED overcrowding kills people, and until somebody does something about, then we are going to continue to have people die who should not die.
He had seen the policy paper outlining Fine Gael’s top priorities in government but was not impressed.
“There is a commitment in the document to examine hospital bed capacity, but that is missing the point — we need to get on and create hospital capacity, particularly to deal with elderly patients that are coming to EDs in increasing numbers and have complex medical needs.
“ED overcrowding will never end until we are in a position to transfer patients to a bed when the decision is made that they need to be admitted to hospital.”
Mr Hickey said there now appeared to be a sense of hopelessness among the public about ED overcrowding.“
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