Irish Medical Organisation

ED overcrowding will only be solved with system wide approach – latest protocols will not address problem

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has warned that any attempt to impose a “one-size fits all” approach to the crisis in Emergency Departments will not succeed.  Speaking today, IMO President, Dr Ray Walley said that any policy response must be flexible enough to deal with local issues and not be constrained by unworkable nationally imposed solutions.  

In particular, Dr Walley said that, without making the necessary investment, it is not realistic to set a target of 9 hours maximum waiting time for patients and that setting time limits was irrelevant if additional beds were not made available; “Setting time limits might sound impressive but it means nothing if additional beds are not made available for hospitals.  That capacity deficit is the root cause of our ED crisis and it is screaming out to be addressed.  The simple fact is there is overcrowding in the system which is manifesting itself in our Emergency Departments” .

Many hospitals and doctors are already implementing the new protocols but the problem has not gone away and overcrowding will not stop until the lost beds in the system have been replaced.   We need a long term plan to deal with this and we need to take action now or we will continue to see elective procedures cancelled, overcrowding in Emergency Departments and emigration of doctors who are forced to manage patients in toxic environments with too few resources."

Dr Walley also said “only last week we learned that there is a shortfall for 2016 in the acute hospital budget of €100 million and this week we are told that hospitals are to be fined €10,000 for each patient where a target is missed.  Does the Minister and the HSE really believe that this is the right approach – beat a system harder with a stick when the core problems are not being addressed by the very Government that has presided over the funding shortfalls in the first place.  This problem manifests itself in our EDs but a whole system response including investment in the acute sector, in the community and in rehabilitative services are sorely needed if the system is to do more than just stagger onwards into the busiest time of the year and into next year.”

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