Emergency department doctors concerned over Ebola readiness

Hospital overcrowding and locum staff a cause of ‘serious safety concerns’

Emergency department doctors have expressed concern over the Government’s preparedness for any Ebola cases given the chronic overcrowding in many Irish hospitals. Photograph: Dennis M. Sabangan/EPA

Emergency department doctors have expressed concern over the Government’s preparedness for any Ebola cases given the chronic overcrowding in many Irish hospitals. Photograph: Dennis M. Sabangan/EPA

 

Emergency department doctors have expressed concern over the Government’s preparedness for any Ebola cases given the chronic overcrowding in many hospitals.

The Irish Association for Emergency Medicine says it is “not reassured” by Department of Health or HSE claims of full preparedness given the current overcrowding in most emergency departments.

“We know that infectious diseases spread amongst patients and staff in crowded EDs. Such spread has happened with norovirus (winter vomiting bug), TB and most devastatingly with SARS.”

The association says it is particularly significant that hospitals serving the major national airports, such as Beaumont Hospital, University Hospital Limerick and Cork University Hospital, are most at risk because they have the worst overcrowding.

“We have serious safety concerns including the continued crowding of EDs with admitted patients on trolleys; insufficient isolation facilities and the HSE’s national dependence on locum staff who are less likely to be aware of procedures and have undergone specific training.”

The group says the HSE and individual hospitals should identify areas to receive suspected Ebola cases away from crowded EDs and introduce mandatory training for frontline staff in the use of protective equipment and other infection control measures.

Yesterday, a woman was admitted to the National Isolation Unit in the Mater Hospital after being assessed as low risk for Ebola but the HSE said shortly afterward that she did not have the virus.