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'HSE says hospital overcrowding is improving, that's not what we're hearing'

The IAEM says the number of trolley inpatients in wards has increased since last year, not decreased.

OVERCROWDING IN HOSPITAL emergency departments across the country is getting worse, says the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine (IAEM)

The group welcomed the recent letter to HIQA from specialist trainees in Emergency Medicine which they said highlighted the real picture of  the “continuing and unacceptable overcrowding in the country’s Emergency Departments (EDs) and the risks to patients and staff associated with it”.

Mismatched information

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, a spokesperson for the IAEM said that there was a mismatch in information coming from the Department of Health about the improvements in trolley numbers and crowding and what their organisation were hearing on the ground.

They criticised the Health Service Executive (HSE) stating that their response to the problem was “disappointing” and they criticised the figures the HSE had issued, which hailed there was a vast improvement.

Rather than acknowledge the serious and, in some places, worsening problem it reported a 34 per cent decrease in ED overcrowding with admitted inpatients, choosing 2011 as the comparator year because that year saw the greatest number of inpatient boarders in EDs.

The true reduction is actually 22 per cent – laudable but of scant consolation to the 67,863 inpatients who endured being on a trolley instead of being treated in a bed on a ward.

The group state that compared to 2012, there is a 2 per cent increase in the number of inpatient boarders in EDs or trolley inpatients in wards.

“ED overcrowding is associated with increased risk of avoidable death, inferior medical outcomes or unnecessarily prolonged hospitalisation, he said, adding:

It is a severe problem, and it has been for some years, but what we are hearing from our members on the ground is that it is getting particularly bad and there does not seem to be any improvement.

The IAEM stated that overcrowding “continues represents a failure of the HSE to proactively manage this predictable situation and should be openly acknowledged as such rather than dismissing the legitimate concerns of doctors about the welfare of their patients”.

Risk to patients

Addressing the issue of the restricting ED’s hours – such as that raised in the Dáil yesterday in relation the St. Columcilles’s Hospital in Loughlinstown, he said that the reconfiguration of hospitals is not always a bad thing but said that the adequate resources need to be given to the hospital that is taking on the additional patients – like that of St Vincent’s Hospital.

“It should enhance patient safety and their experience, it should not make it worse. If it is just being done to save money, to close them down as a cost-saving measure then obviously that is not a good idea,” he said.

The IAEM is calling on the Department of Health and the HSE to “up the ante” on the overcrowding situation deal with the issue with a sustainable management plan.

Read: Tánaiste to address ‘the real scandal’ at St Vincent’s>

Read: Anger expressed over downgrading of Loughlinstown A&E services >

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