Overcrowding in hospitals ‘should not be tolerated’

Letter to Hiqa highlights staffing issues, overcrowding and unsafe work conditions

The HSE said work is “well under way” to implement all of the recommendations in the Tallaght report in hospitals.  Photograph: Frank Miller / The Irish Times

The HSE said work is “well under way” to implement all of the recommendations in the Tallaght report in hospitals. Photograph: Frank Miller / The Irish Times

Tue, Jan 21, 2014, 19:16

Frontline doctors have warned that emergency departments (EDs) in hospitals across the country are “unequivocally dangerous” to patients due to severe overcrowding.

In a letter addressed to the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), which was also sent to the directorate of the HSE, the doctors highlight issues with staffing coupled with increasing numbers of patients and an ageing population.

“ED overcrowding should not be tolerated,” wrote Dr Aileen McCabe, president of the Irish Emergency Medicine Trainees Association (IEMTA). “We believe that current ED conditions are unequivocally dangerous for patients and staff and there is substantial medical evidence that overcrowding leads to higher mortality and poorer patient outcomes.”

In the letter, which was sent on January 9th, Dr McCabe says doctors around the country “whole-heartedly” welcomed the Hiqa Tallaght Hospital Investigation Report published in May 2012. “We felt that your report signalled clearly and unambiguously to hospital management and the healthcare commissioners that these unsafe systems of healthcare provision would no longer be accepted.”

She said doctors working in Tallaght at the time of the report saw “immediate improvements in conditions and quality of care for ED patients”. However, she argues that the HSE has not issued directives to hospital managers and is relying on a “recommended compliance”.

In response, Hiqa said it would have “serious concerns” if the recommendations from its Tallaght investigation report had not been implemented in full, in particular those relating to emergency departments. “We will be in contact with the HSE seeking assurance on the issues raised by the IEMTA.”

The HSE said work is “well under way” to implement all of the recommendations in the Tallaght report in hospitals.

Meanwhile, all “non-urgent” surgery continued to be deferred at University Hospital Galway (UHG) for a sixth day today due to a “significant” increase in demand at its emergency department.

UHG was overall top of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) trolley and ward watch table today, with 27 people on trolleys in corridors and 17 people on trolleys or chairs in wards or “inappropriate settings”, according to the union.

This compares to 20 on trolleys in corridors and 17 in inappropriate ward settings today in Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, Dublin, and 30 on corridor trolleys and three in inappropriate ward settings in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, Co Louth.