Ireland has too many emergency departments, consultant says

Emergency trauma units are to be shut in nine hospitals across the State, a report is to say


The current number of Ireland’s emergency departments “doesn’t make any sense” for State’s population, the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine has said.

Fergal Hickey, communications officer with the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine and a consultant in emergency medicine at Sligo General Hospital, was responding after reports that nine hospitals across the country faced having emergency trauma services permanently closed down under new health service reform plans which were being drawn up by the Trauma Steering Group.

The group is charged with developing a policy for a national trauma network.

Mr Hickey said the report being quoted was a draft that had yet to be finalised.

He said that politicians had failed to see the positive aspects of having centres of excellence.

“Which is worse? Being brought to a hospital that can’t deal with you? Many of these hospitals don’t have trauma services, it is illogical to bring patients there and then have to transfer,” Mr Hickey told Newstalk Breakfast.

“For a population of 4.5 million, having 29 emergency departments doesn’t make any sense.”

The hospitals that would be affected by the move were identified in the report as Cavan General Hospital, Naas Hospital, Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe, the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar, St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny, Wexford General Hospital, South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel, the Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise and the Mercy University Hospital in Cork.

Later Mr Hickey told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the nine hospitals in question do not have inpatient orthopaedic services, which would be required in a major trauma incident.

“There is no point having a building with an emergency sign if it doesn’t have the expertise to support that service,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Minister for Health Simon Harris said he had not seen any recommendations or output from the Trauma Steering Group.

The Department of Health said there were no plans to close emergency departments across the country or to remove services from existing facilities.

Cork North Central TD Jonathan O’Brien (SF) said he was quite anxious at the thought of Mercy University Hospital in Cork could lose its emergency department.

Cork Workers’ Party councillor Ted Tynan said the closure of Mercy Hospital’s emergency department would it under “unsustainable pressure” on a situation “already critical”.

He said it would leave Cork University Hospital as the only emergency department for a population of more than half a million.

“There is an urgent need for absolute clarity on the future of the Mercy’s emergency department,” Cllr Tynan said.