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Doctors say emergency departments are 'death zones' due to overcrowding

The Irish Medical Organisation has said that additional resources are needed immediately.

Health Minister Simon Harris
Health Minister Simon Harris
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

THE IRISH MEDICAL Organisation (IMO) has said overcrowding means emergency departments continue to operate as “death zones”.

The organisation, which represents doctors and consultants, made the comments while criticising “the lack of additional resources” in the Irish health service.

Following a Cabinet meeting today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Health Minister Simon Harris will soon publish the implementation strategy for Sláintecare – a 10-year plan that aims to invest billions in order to reform the health service.

The IMO said that, while it welcomes the fact that some action points “have finally been identified, it is already very clear that Sláintecare is not going to transform our health services or radically address the crisis facing patients and healthcare professionals every day”.

In a statement, the organisation said: “It was particularly noticeable that when speaking about Sláintecare, the Taoiseach moved immediately to warn about the lack of available resources to increase spending on health.”

The IMO said the government was “preparing the public to expect little improvement in the health services for the coming years”.

“It is very demoralising for those professionals in the health services who are working night and day to help their patients to have to listen to the Taoiseach and others constantly talk about how much is being spent on health – ignoring the fact that public health services are demand-driven.”

‘Death zones’ 

The organisation warned that, unless additional resources are provided, there will continue to be:

  • Increased waiting lists
  • Overcrowding in emergency departments, “which means that hospitals will have to continue to operate in the ‘death zone’ where occupancy levels are so high that patients die as a result of overcrowding”
  • Patients unable register with a GP due to the capacity issues in General Practice, the GP system is “chronically underfunded and urgently requires a roadmap for the reversal of FEMPI (pay) cuts made during the recession”
  • Over 450 unfilled consultant posts
  • Continued wholesale emigration of doctors to countries that provide better terms and conditions and a healthier working environment

Speaking about Sláintecare in the Dáil recently, Harris said the successful delivery of the “ambitious reform plans envisaged … will be a significant undertaking and needs to be translated into a detailed and phased programme of work to be delivered over a 10-year timeframe”.

“In this regard, my department is currently finalising an implementation plan in response to the Sláintecare report, with a focus on the initial three-year period.

“This implementation plan will give direction to all stakeholders in the system, including the acute hospital sector, on the actions that will need to be taken in the coming years.”

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Órla Ryan

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