Patients at CUH waiting up to 24 hours

PATIENTS at some of Ireland’s largest hospitals are facing unacceptable emergency department delays, with half of attendees at Cork University Hospital (CUH) alone waiting up to 24 hours for treatment.

Figures in the HSE’s latest Healthstat performance report show that, four years on from official plans to see all admitted patients within six hours, seven facilities are still failing to get anywhere near the target.

According to the statistics CUH, Galway University Hospital (GUH), the Mid-West Regional Hospital in Dooradoyle, Limerick, the Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore, Co Offaly, and Waterford Regional Hospital are seeing patients wait as long as 24 hours for the care they need.

A similar situation is apparent in Portiuncula Hospital in Co Galway and Tallaght Hospital in Dublin.

The worst-affected facilities include CUH, where 50% of patients waited between 12 and 24 hours to be admitted in May, and GUH, where 40% of patients were forced to wait for an identical length of time.

While expressing concern, a spokesperson for Health Minister Dr James Reilly said the Cabinet had already taken clear steps to deal with the crisis.

These include the establishment of a “special delivery unit” to address overcrowding in emergency departments.

Joint national clinical lead with the HSE’s Acute Medicine Programme (AMP), Prof Gary Courtney, said it was “unacceptable” that patients should be asked to wait even six hours to be admitted.

However, the senior medic said he was still optimistic that within two years the work being done by the AMP would see 95% of patients seen inside the allotted time.

“We have been working on this since January of last year and there’s been great buy-in to the programme. Every hospital has agreed to institute our plan,” he said.

A HSE spokesman said any breach in the “24-hour standard” is flagged immediately to senior managers who are required to address the situation as a matter of urgency.

The spokesperson said more than 1.1 million individual attendances were made to Ireland’s 33 public emergency departments last year.

“During exceptionally busy periods the standards laid down by the HSE are occasionally breached. This is distressing for patients, families and staff who are striving to provide the best possible service,” he said.

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