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HSE agency staff ban 'will force more shutdowns like Roscommon'

Emergency departments in several more smaller hospitals could be forced to close, a medical association has warned.

MORE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENTS at small hospitals will be forced to close if the HSE does not reverse its ban on agency doctors, a group of medics has warned.

The warning comes just one month after Roscommon Hospital’s emergency department was shut down amid a storm of protest.

The Irish Association for Emergency Medicine (IAEM) has called for emergency departments to be excluded from the new hiring freeze, which is set to take effect from August 15. It said that currently almost a third of senior doctor posts in emergency departments are vacant, and 15 per cent of more junior SHO positions.

“Some smaller EDs [emergency departments] will either close or have restricted hours of opening” unless agency staff can be brought in as cover, the association said in a statement. At others, it added, “there will be unacceptably long delays in patients accessing care due to doctor shortages. The ultimate outcome of these scenarios will be to put patients at increased risk.”

The HSE is currently conducting a recruitment drive in India and Pakistan in the hope of filling vacancies. However, the IAEM said these doctors will not be eligible to work in smaller regional emergency departments, where there is no full-time supervision.

Hundreds of people turned out to protest last month over the closure of the emergency department at Roscommon Hospital. Two weeks ago, the HSE sent a letter to its regional directors highlighting a 32 per cent growth in spending on agency doctors in just five months and ordering their employment to cease from August 15.

Read more: Up to 1,500 protest at Roscommon County Hospital >

Read more: HSE is now €208 million over budget >

Read more: HSE reinforces hiring freeze after €170million overspend >

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