IAEM fears ED closures in July due to worsening Medical staff shortages
The Irish Association for Emergency Medicine recently warned of an expected significant worsening of the current, very precarious medical staffing levels in the country’s Emergency Departments (EDs). Evidence from around the country currently indicates that staffing deficits will worsen significantly from July. It is likely that many departments will have difficulty filling medical staff rosters with inevitable cuts in services and more prolonged waits for patients. It is likely that in Dublin not all EDs will be able to remain open 24/7 with some operating only during limited hours. Clearly, in more rural areas where EDs are more widely dispersed, the inability to remain open on the normal 24/7/365 basis is likely to cause significant disruption to the healthcare system and its hospitals and greatly increase the risks for patients.
Contributing significantly to the current inability to recruit to Emergency Medicine posts is the persistence of ED overcrowding with admitted hospital inpatients. In spite of unambiguous government commitments made in the wake of the HIQA Tallaght report, published a year ago last week, most EDs have seen a recent worsening of the underlying level of overcrowding. Although Health Minister, Dr. James Reilly TD, promised that the Special Delivery Unit would be specifically tasked with abolishing overcrowding as a priority and that ED overcrowding would be eradicated by the end of 2012, there has been a complete failure to resolve this situation which is so risky for patients. Given the persistent levels of ED overcrowding, a situation that sees fewer EDs open for 24 hours will bring chaos to these EDs as they are forced to accommodate even more admitted inpatients while attempting to deal with their normal ED workload. The ability to provide good quality care for patients will be seriously compromised.
It is now clear that the promises by the Minister for Health have not been kept and appear little more than soundbites.
Ireland’s 30 EDs are teetering on the edge of total collapse as a result of circumstances outside the control of those working in Emergency Medicine. It is a cause for national concern and requires immediate action.