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"Serious concern" over staff shortages in Emergency Departments

The Irish Association for Emergency Medicine has said that the problem will worsen after July.

SERIOUS CONCERN HAS been expressed over staff shortages in Emergency Departments, following a survey that suggests the problem will worsen after July.

A recent medical staff survey by the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine (IAEM) confirms ongoing shortages of medical staff in the country’s Emergency Departments (EDs), the association has said.

It said that the worst shortages are at the middle grade level (senior doctors at a grade below Consultant), while the experience of departments in attempting to recruit medical staff for July 2013 to January 2014 (the next contract period for NCHDs [non-consultant hospital doctors]) suggests that the problem will “greatly worsen” after July.

There is a genuine risk that EDs will not be able to fill enough of their posts to continue to provide current levels of service. There is a real prospect therefore of certain EDs being obliged to reduce their hours of service.

The IAEM said that for many EDs there is a likelihood of fewer doctors on duty, which could lead to increases in waiting times and increased risk for patients. It is not just EDs in smaller hospitals that are at risk, as it is likely to significantly affect many larger hospitals, it added.

There are also increasing difficulties recruiting Consultants in Emergency Medicine (EM) around the country. “At the same time as new entrant Consultant salaries in Ireland are cut, other countries are offering very heavily incentivised packages to attract suitably qualified Irish doctors to staff their EDs,” said the IAEM.

The association said that unless the problems that make a career in EM in Ireland “so unattractive” are addressed, the staffing shortage will inevitably worsen. They warn this may lead to a downward spiral where current Consultants in EM consider relocating to other countries.

Read: New ‘Ward Watch’ figures show increase in patients placed in wards>

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